The ongoing Phoenix Coyotes custody soap opera, with Gary Bettman & the NHL in one corner and Jim Balsillie & Hamilton, Ontario, in the other, has reached untold levels of absurdity at this point. It’s a sure signal to any sane observer that the NHL’s efforts to keep a hockey team in the hottest metropolis in the nation are destructive to the team and the league as a whole.
The latest development is that Balsillie, after having the NHL effectively price him out of negotiations with new and inventive fees to levy - to the point that they claimed they’d need $100 million just for the hassle of relocation - is now asking for more depositions from league officials to figure out, basically, what the hell they’re talking about.
Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie wants the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to allow him to probe the rationale behind the NHL owners’ overwhelming rejection of him as a potential owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.
In a court filing Monday, Balsillie also contended that Judge Redfield T. Baum has the authority under bankruptcy law to award the bid to him despite the actions by NHL owners.
The filing by PSE Sports & Entertainment, the company Balsillie formed to pursue the Coyotes, came after the NHL said he was rejected as an owner by a 26-0 vote with three abstentions and one absentee, because he was perceived to be untrustworthy.
The “untrustworthiness,” in case you hadn’t already guessed, comes from perceptions in the case of each sale that he was planning to move the team to Hamilton. But he’s already saying that’s exactly what he wants now! What do the other owners think; that he’ll renege and keep the team in Phoenix? There’s no trust being broken if he says, “I want to move this team to Ontario,” and then does exactly that.
Meanwhile, Balsillie may be getting good news later today in bankruptcy court; as the TORONTO STAR notes, rules for the “relocation auction” (which, naturally, the league will try to turn into a “keep the team in Phoenix auction”) will be set out today. Balsillie is being allowed to participate in the deliberations, and you can guess how the league feels:
No one is saying much on the record but one involved party said he expects that proceedings in an Arizona bankruptcy court today to be “a bloodbath.”
This afternoon’s gathering is expected to set the rules for the Sept. 10 auction for the team, one in which Baum ruled last week that Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie can participate despite the NHL’s strenuous objections.
In a document filed in court yesterday, Balsillie’s group claimed that the “real goal” in the NHL blocking him from moving the team to Hamilton is “to avoid another NHL team anywhere near the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
But as much as the league ought to be doing to help the failing - nay, failed - franchise, nobody wants to do anything unpopular. Usually, a city that loves its local team should be looking for a way to make a sacrifice here or there. One common tactic is to raise taxes. It’s rough, but it’s standard procedure. Todd McFarlane, your thoughts?
“I’m open to anything that keeps the Coyotes around, but does not put an undue burden on others.”
Got it. So open to any idea of financial help, just so long as it’s not you who helps. Right.
Time to pull the plug on Phoenix and let Balsillie move the team to Hamilton. He’s done his due diligence, and nobody else even seems interested in that much.