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Balsillie Scouting Florida Panthers ?

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Was touring the 300s at the BAC during last night's game against Tampa Bay when what appeared before me at the entry to a packed luxury box, focused like a laser, but this:


My apologies for the lack of focus; it was taken on the move. In case you can't make it out clearly, it reads:

(BankAtlantic Center logo); Welcome Special Guests of Research in Motion; Sunrise Sports & Entertainment (parent company of the Panthers).

Anyone who has followed the NHL closely over the past three seasons - especially fans who were dragged through the mud in Pittsburgh and Nashville, barely hanging on to their clubs - is familiar with the Spectre of Darkness To Wayward Markets which is Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM) and temporary Hero to Hamiltonians. Are even the Habs out of reach? Evidently so, but that doesn't stop the mill from churning.

Back to the picture above. An optimist would declare that the sign refers to "Special Guests Of" RIM, not necessarily RIM specifically. Now, the Cats don't routinely supply me with updated corporate sponsor lists, but I'm fairly concrete in that I would have noticed the infamous company's name associated with the franchise somewhere. It's not, and I haven't. They're not listed as a corporate sponsor on the team website. I have never seen signage for RIM or their prize product, the Blackberry, at the BAC or during Panthers radio or television broadcasts...until last night that is, when the Blackberry name was figured rather prominently on that annoying sideboard-electronic-scrolling-advertisement thing. The in-game TV crew captured images from the above luxury suite more than a few times, the occupants raising their Blackberries and cheering each occasion. The box they resided in was out of the way, past the major concession areas of the club level.

Is this simply a harmless case of the Florida sales staff treating a new, potential international sponsor who has a recent history of raiding hockey teams in "weak" markets with the intent of moving them to southern Ontario, even going to the effort of selling season ticket deposits in Hamilton, to a sweet night out in Sunrise? Um, suuuure. Any folks seen this bunch in Phoenix? Or Atlanta? How about Long Island?

I've been through this before, kids. I smell a rat, and it has nothing to do with 1996. MY OPINION: We're being scouted for purchase by Balsillie, with relocation to Ontario immediately thereafter. Don't underestimate the man's finances, desire, or resources. But Alan Cohen would never sell, right? Don't kid yourself; everything has a right price.