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Among the NHL executives who were willing to discuss the matter yesterday, there was no outright opposition shown to would-be franchise owner Jim Balsillie - just a wish that he would play by their rules.

After the annual June meeting of league presidents and general managers, St. Louis Blues president John Davidson said they are aware Balsillie is an enthusiastic hockey fan, but that doesn't mean they think he should force his way into the club by buying the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy and waging a court battle to move the team to Hamilton.

"All I know is, there are rules," Davidson said.

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"To me, it doesn't matter if it's your family structure at home or trying to buy an NHL hockey club, which is a dream a lot of people have, but there are rules.

"Hopefully, along the way, something will work. But just follow the rules."

Davidson, like many other NHL executives, has no doubt a second team would be successful in Southern Ontario, but he did not want to discuss the matter in detail.

"I haven't been privy to those discussions [by any NHL governors]" he said. "We haven't had those discussions.

"I've seen three teams in New York, so I've seen things like that work. I hate to be evasive, but there's not much more I can really say about it."

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray echoed Davidson's views of BlackBerry tycoon Balsillie's attempt to move the Coyotes.

"Obviously, three or four teams in Ontario would work from an interest point of view," Murray said. "Whether it works for the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Buffalo Sabres is another issue that, fortunately, I don't have to deal with.

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"I don't know that [Balsillie]has turned anyone against him. I think everyone recognizes, and the league recognizes, he's a very interested man in the game. Maybe they didn't like the method he went about it," he said. "I think there is procedure here. Just follow the game plan, follow the rules of the league and people would help him achieve what he wants to achieve."

In other league business, outside of a decision to establish an award for general manager of the year, the GMs did not introduce anything new during their meeting yesterday. It doesn't have a name yet or decision about who will vote on it, but the award will be presented for the first time in 2010.

The GMs once again decided not to introduce a rule to ban hits to the head.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said there is no appetite for such a rule change because the executives feel there are enough penalties in place - although the matter will be studied by the league's competition committee this summer, and a rule may still be formed.

Two award winners were announced yesterday by the Hockey Hall of Fame: Davidson, who spent years as a broadcaster in New York before joining the Blues, is the winner of the 2009 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his work on television, and long-time Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hockey writer Dave Molinari is the winner of the annual Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for his work in print journalism.

Meanwhile, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said it's business as usual even if he does not know where his team will be playing next season.

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"Obviously, a month from now, it might be a different story," Maloney said yesterday. "Whatever our marching orders are, we'll march."

Maloney said he is preparing plans under several different financial scenarios as he has not been given an operating budget. He said the team could sign free agents - although it would have to get approval to do so from the NHL until the Arizona bankruptcy court decides if the team can be moved and sold.

Maloney said he does not spend any time thinking about a potential move to Hamilton. The only difficulty right now is selling tickets because of the uncertain future of the team.

"We certainly expect to be in business next year," he said.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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