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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

[Addendum] The Phoenix Coyotes Are Dead, Almost, Just Give It A Minute

Ding dong. The witch is dead. Maybe. Almost. We'll know more next month. But in a ruling that perhaps surprised only the NHL, the Phoenix bankruptcy judge overhearing the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy today announced that the Jerry Reinsdorf no-money bid, the mythical-yet-to-be-submitted bid from Ice Edge Holdings, and the $212.5 million bid of Jim Balsillie will all be considered by the bankruptcy court in an auction on September 10.

Originally, there were to be two auctions regarding the Coyotes -- a keep the team in Phoenix auction which was supposed to have been done today, and the September 10 open to relocation auction if the original auction was deemed to be unsatisfactory. But Jerry Reinsdorf's bid has proven to be a bit inadequate, and he's still attempting to negotiate with the city of Glendale, AZ over the use of the Coyotes arena, so he and the NHL requested a delay so as to work on the bid. The judge granted that delay, with the result being that all bids will be considered on the same day.

This is bad news for Phoenix, Reinsdorf, and the NHL seeing as how the judge and the leading creditor have both stated that they prefer Balsillie's bid, seeing as how actual money is involved and the creditors are paid off. But in even worse news for Phoenix, Reinsdorf, and the NHL, the judge also stated that the auction is "open to any and all bidders including, but not limited to P.S.E. [Balsillie]."

What that, in effect, means is that the everybody is welcome to bid on the team, and there has been speculation that once the team was open to relocation more bidders might leap in. So it's possible, seeing that this team can now be moved and is not stuck with having to stay in Phoenix, that other parties are going to submit bids to purchase the team and move it, and the NHL has virtually no way to prevent this unless they find a way to get Reinsdorf to offer up at least as much cash as Balsillie.

There is also going to be a court hearing next Tuesday so as to address the fact that the NHL last week rejected Balsillie's bid. My thinking is that the judge will hear the NHL out, tell them to shut up, and get on with the real work. Considering some of the owners they have let into the league, like "Boots" Del Biaggio for example -- it's funny to listen to Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold go on about Balsillie being a liar when you consider that Leipold thought Del Biaggio was an honest guy -- I don't think the judge is going to be too sympathetic to the NHL's concerns. Especially since the judge's concern is getting the money back to the creditors, not helping Gary Bettman dig himself out of this grave he's buried himself in.

So the future of the Coyotes in Phoenix is dead. Almost. Not quite. But in a minute. They'll be stone dead soon. It won't be long.



ADDENDUM:

I want to be clearer about something: with the bidding process thrown open to anybody who wants to buy the club and move it, I wouldn't be shocked or surprised if someone makes a bid that surpasses that of Balsillie's and ends up with the team.

10 comments:

FinnAir said...

Any hockey mad oil barons in Houston?
No seriously I would be quite happy to see the "Jets" back in Canada.

CenterIce said...

Great reporting, John. You gotta love any story that lends itself so well to a Monty Python clip.

September 10th is cutting it awfully close to the start of the NHL season. I wonder how this is affecting the plyers still assigned to the Coyotes? It seems it'd be hard to concentrate on hockey when you're not even sure in which city you'll live in two months....

John Royal said...

Centerice, they'll play in Phoenix this season no matter what, I think. I think Balsillie has even said as much at one point.

If what I think will happen, happens, it will kind of be like that last season the Houston Oilers had before moving to Tennessee.

FinnAir said...

..."not even sure in which city you'll live in two months"...

Well this reminded me to the short-lived Denver Spurs (WHA). Back in 1974-75 as they were leaving Denver to play the Stingers in Cincinnati, one of the players, Ralph Backstrom, heard from somebody from the admin side of things that the team might not come back to Denver. There had been some rumours that the team might move to Ottawa. In Cincinnati, on the blue line, getting ready for the match, O Canada came on. That's how they got to know that they at least were going to Canada. I wonder how much they could concentrate on that game. Sounds quite Monty Pythonesque to me.
I bet no player is buying a house in Phoenix now...

BobbyR said...

"'Bout a hundred dollars."

Rain Man's bid for the Coyotes.

FinnAir said...

Bad mistake there. My apologies. I remembered the 1975 bit but it was 1975-76, first season for the Stingers. First/last for the Spurs/Civics.

Anonymous said...

There is also going to be a court hearing next Tuesday so as to address the fact that the NHL last week rejected Balsillie's bid. My thinking is that the judge will hear the NHL out, tell them to shut up, and get on with the real work. Considering some of the owners they have let into the league, like "Boots" Del Biaggio for example -- it's funny to listen to Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold go on about Balsillie being a liar when you consider that Leipold thought Del Biaggio was an honest guy -- I don't think the judge is going to be too sympathetic to the NHL's concerns. Especially since the judge's concern is getting the money back to the creditors, not helping Gary Bettman dig himself out of this grave he's buried himself in.
_______________________________

I really don't see how in the world you can make this equivalence. The NHL has welcomed shady owners since as far back as the Canucks had crooked owners in the 1970s. That's a far different thing from using the NHL shield to prematurely sell season tickets to a team you don't yet own. Twice. And from essentially pitting Canadian fans against the league through the make it seven campaign. Those are orders of magnitude more serious.

Don't forget, it's not the NHL alone in this fight. Every pro sports league in North America wants to right to determine who owns teams and where they can be placed. Canadian fans hardly need to be reminded of the mid and late 90s, when the Canadian dollar and the Canadian economy was weak. If the precedent existed whereby teams could be poached by the highest bidder and released wherever they choose, it's not a stretch to think Vancouver and Calgary would have followed Winnipeg and Edmonton over the border.

The hearing regarding Balsille's application will be interesting and it will most likely not be the slam dunk you suggest.

John Royal said...

Anon, your point is good, but the thing you have to remember is that this is bankruptcy court. The judge's concern is making sure the creditors get paid, not internal NHL bylaws.

And I think as far as the judge is concerned, if Balsillie was a qualified owner back in the days when he was approved to purchase Nashville, then he's still qualified because technically, nothing has changed.

The judge's only priority is making sure the creditors get the money. And the major creditors have made it clear they want money and not the Reinsdorf bid as it stands.

This isn't a slam dunk, but I really think the judge is tired with dealing with the NHL which has done nothing to remedy the situation.

Anonymous said...

howls...or yowls..too bad.

Forecheck said...

My money is on Balsillie, but I also expect a long, ugly legal battle to keep him from moving the team while the Yote's attendance dwindles to AHL levels.

Who wins? Nobody. Except the lawyers.