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Bettman clears air on Phoenix situation

Thursday, 05.28.2009 / 5:16 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"We have rules with respect to who can own franchises. We have rules to how you can relocate teams. This proceeding has to do with the application of our rules. It doesn't have anything to do with what markets we'll go to. At some point in time we might have to relocate. At some point we might have to expand. This isn't that time."
-- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday denied a rumor that the League's majority owners were misled about the monetary situation with the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation prior to Jerry Moyes filing for bankruptcy.

"Absolutely, categorically untrue," Bettman said on his Sirius/XM radio show, the NHL Hour. "They all know exactly what is going on and they are all unanimously supportive of the positions we're taking.

"The erroneous comments made are a little frustrating, but when dealing with an emotional topic they're not constructed to consideration."

Bettman understands the yearning for hockey fans in Canada, and particularly Southern Ontario, to get another NHL team into the region, be it in Hamilton or Kitchener. However, the situation going on in Phoenix, he said, is about League rules and regulations and nothing more.

A hearing has been set by U.S. bankruptcy court judge Redfield Baum for June 9 to determine whether Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie can purchase the Coyotes out of bankruptcy for $212.5 million and move the club to Southern Ontario.

The NHL believes the judge will rule in its favor and according to the Canadian Press will appeal the decision should the judge rule in favor of Balsillie.

"We have rules with respect to who can own franchises," Bettman said. "We have rules to how you can relocate teams. This proceeding has to do with the application of our rules. It doesn't have anything to do with what markets we'll go to. At some point in time we might have to relocate. At some point we might have to expand. This isn't that time.

"It isn't about Canada vs. the United States," he continued. "It isn't about Hamilton vs. Phoenix. This is about Phoenix and this is about the League's rules."

Bettman remains committed to the Coyotes staying in the desert. He believes the Coyotes lack of success on the ice has plagued them financially.

"This is a team that has had a dearth of winning," the commissioner said. "There are lots of teams that go through a down period and we don't run out on cities. What we're going through in Phoenix has nothing to do with a team somewhere else. We don't just pick up and move our teams because they happen to not be doing well. That's why Ottawa is where it is safe and sound. That's why Pittsburgh is where it is safe and sound. That's why Buffalo is where it is safe and sound. Chicago? No one would suggest moving out of there and how well were they doing two years ago?

"In this day and age where all teams can afford to be competitive, fans are less tolerant of a long prolonged drought. If you look at teams that attendance tends to soften they are teams that have had long-term competitive issues."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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