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RIM's Balsillie Still Interested In NHL

The big focus of my exclusive interview with Research in Motion's Jim Balsillieon Thursday in San Francisco obviously dealt with BlackBerry, RIM's stock, competition with Apple, the upcoming Android mobile operating system from Google, and other wireless stuff.

But the burning issue I didn't have time to get to on the air, but did address with him anyway: Where does he stand on buying a National Hockey League team and what about his relationship with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman?

The background is this: Balsillie has been Jonesing for an NHL team for the past several years. He looked close to getting a deal done for the financially strapped Pittsburgh Penguins. When that didn't work out, he started to focus on the Nashville Predators. Then it was the Buffalo Sabres.

Earlier this summer, Sports Business Daily reported that Balsillie "has annoyed many of the 30 team owners and probably wouldn't be approve as an owner even if he was willing to overpay for a team." One owner said, "Jim scares most of us." "Legally too aggressive." "Treats his effort to get a team too corporately instead of realizing this is a club."

There was a thought that maybe Balsillie's problems stem from his Canadian citizenship, that he would buy an American team and relocate them North.

So I asked him whether there was any update. First, he told me, "I think all your viewers know that hockey is the greatest game in the whole wide world. It's actually not a game. It's a religion. So I think you can understand it's a religious obligation to be involved in the game. It's fun, it's a passion. I play it regularly. I played it Friday night, and I'll play a couple of times this week. It's passion."

If some owners think he's treating his play for an NHL team too "corporately," that seems to ignore his passion. Which is certainly legit.

I then suggested that his non-answer answer suggested he was out of the running for a team. He laughed and said absolutely not. "I get a lot of calls. My powder's dry. Come what may."

So, a deal isn't imminent? "We'll see tomorrow. You never know. I'm very active."

I also asked him about the perceived, personal animosity between him and NHL commissioner Bettman. "There's nothing personal with the commissioner," he tells me. "He's trying to do his job well."

Seems like getting Bold to the US, the new Flip in consumers' hands, and readying the BlackBerry touch screen Thunder for the market, is dominating his time. But that's not to say he's ready to deal the moment an NHL opportunity presents itself.

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