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Battle for Coyotes ownership returns to court

Thursday, 09.10.2009 / 12:01 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"In the majority of bankruptcy cases, the dynamics are probably such that it proves to be a good way to bring matters to a resolution. But I don't think this is one of those cases, and I think the court has come to understand that."
-- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly

Judge Redfield T. Baum will preside over two more days of hearings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Thursday and Friday in the months-long legal battle for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes.

The NHL has bid $140 million to take control of the franchise and keep it in Arizona while it looks for a suitable owner with similar objectives who can be approved by the Board of Governors. Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie has bid $242.5 million, contingent on the franchise moving to Hamilton, Ont., as soon as possible.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com the League does not view Balsillie as a qualified bidder because the Board of Governors has voted 26-0 against him becoming an owner.

"I think the judge has a certain style and that style is to encourage the parties to pro-act to find their own solutions," Daly said. "In the majority of bankruptcy cases, the dynamics are probably such that it proves to be a good way to bring matters to a resolution. But I don't think this is one of those cases, and I think the court has come to understand that."

 There are many wrinkles in this case that could delay Baum from making a decision in the next two days and conducting an auction for the team.  First, Baum has yet to decide if Balsillie's bid will be even be considered at auction based on the Board of Governors' 26-0 vote against approving him as a prospective owner. Under the League's bylaws, only the Board of Governors can approve ownership and relocation.

"The Governors have made a determination that Mr. Balsillie is not entitled to be an NHL owner, and my instructions from the Board are to do whatever I can do -- within the legal constraints and the legal system -- to enforce their will in that regard," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week.

If Baum rules in favor of Balsillie, Daly said the NHL would "immediately" appeal to a higher court. The League, he said, would pursue all available appeals should it not prevail on its ability to enforce its rules.

"There's nothing more important to any sports league than who owns its franchises, where its franchises are located and the application and enforceability of its rules and procedures," Bettman said. "If you're going to be in this business, you've got to do whatever it takes to enforce your rules in that regard. Whatever it takes."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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