By Jeff Z. Klein

Throughout the Jim Balsillie-Phoenix Coyotes saga of the last couple of weeks, news reports and Balsillie himself have tossed around the words “southern Ontario” pretty freely. But that’s an inexact term, and its use serves Balisillie in a very real way.

That’s because the main obstacle to Balsillie’s scheme for putting a team in Hamilton isn’t really the Toronto Maple Leafs; it’s the Buffalo Sabres — a team that could conceivably be destroyed if Balsillie is able to defy N.H.L. rules in court and install a team in Canada’s Steel City. But the use by news outlets, commentators and Basillie of the broader term “southern Ontario” obfuscates the threat to the Sabres — and the possibility of the N.H.L. gaining a great hockey town, Hamilton, at the expense of losing another of the same size, Buffalo.

Note interviewer Ron MacLean’s explicit approval of a Coyotes move to southern Ontario during this on-air chat with Balsillie on “Hockey Night in Canada,” and the absence of any talk about the effect such a move would have on the Sabres: