On March 31, 2008 Canada's Competition Bureau
announced the conclusion of its investigation into the policies
of the National Hockey League (the NHL) for the approval of
transfers of ownership and relocations of franchises. The
Bureau concluded they were not in violation of the civil
"abuse of dominance" provisions (s. 79) of the
Competition Act. The inquiry had been commenced by the
Bureau in June 2007, following media reports that James
Balsillie, co-CEO of Research In Motion (makers of the
BlackberryT personal communications device), had been foiled in
his latest attempt to buy an NHL franchise and move it to
southern Ontario (either Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo) when
the NHL refused to consider the relocation of the Nashville
The NHL had defended its right to refuse to consider
relocation of a team prior to the conclusion of the seven-year
non-relocation covenant entered into between new owners and the
Following similar rulings by U.S. courts in professional
sports cases over the years,1 the Bureau cited the
NHL's "properly circumscribed restrictions"
on the relocation of sports franchises and the legitimate
business interests they promote, such as preserving rivalries
between teams, attracting a broader audience, providing new
franchises with an opportunity to succeed, and encouraging
investment in sports facilities and related infrastructure by
local municipalities. In particular, the Bureau found that
since at least 1993, no incumbent team had exercised a veto to
protect its local territory from entry by a competing
franchise, and that NHL rules required only a majority vote.
The Bureau went on to say, however, that it "may have
concerns" about a single team being entitled to exercise a
veto to prevent a franchise from entering its local region
1. Levin v. NBA, 385 F. Supp. 149 (1974),
San Francisco Seals v. NHL, 379 F. Supp. 966 (C.D. Ca.
1974), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission v.
NFL, 791 F.2d 1356 (9th Cir. 1986), NBA v. SDC
Basketball Club and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 815
F.2d 562 (9th Cir. 1987) and VKK Corporation v. NFL,
244 F.3d 114 (2nd Cir. 2001).
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