EDITOR'S NOTE: Check in with phoenixcoyotes.com throughout the day Wednesday for updates and a recap from U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Coyotes saga seems headed toward a conclusion, and the lead character in the drama finally is scheduled to make an appearance.
After almost four months of legal wrangling and nearly 900 court filings, a hearing is scheduled in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix on Wednesday to argue most of the sticky issues still facing Judge Redfield T. Baum.
For the first time, Canadian billionaire James Balsillie will be in the courtroom, according to a filing Tuesday by PSE, the company he formed to pursue the Coyotes. Balsillie wants to buy the team and move it to Hamilton, Ontario, over the vehement objection of the NHL, which has made its own bid to purchase the franchise.
"Recognizing that his credibility has been put at issue and the court may have questions not covered in the declarations and deposition testimony," the filing read, "Mr. James Balsillie will be present at the hearing in order to respond to any questions the court may have."
It's not known whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be there.
It could be the last stand for Balsillie, who has doggedly pursued the franchise even though the NHL Board of Governors voted 26-0 to reject him as an owner. Balsillie wants the judge to override that vote and not only award the team to him, but allow him to move the franchise immediately with a nominal relocation fee.
If the judge rules that Balsillie's bid is valid, the NHL has promised to appeal and seek a stay of the sale. Balsillie hasn't said whether he would take an antitrust case to court if he loses the bankruptcy bid.
Other issues to be argued include whether there is time to move the franchise for the coming season — the first preseason game is Sept. 15 — and whether Balsillie can void the Coyotes' lease with the city of Glendale without a significant penalty.
The Coyotes rookie camp begins Sunday, and ice was installed at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday.
Two bids have been made to buy the team and keep it in Glendale.
The NHL made a surprise offer of $140 million after a group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf pulled out, citing the inability to reach a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale. The league says that if its bid is successful, it intends to sell the team outside the encumbrances of the bankruptcy process. If a buyer to keep the team in Glendale can't be found, the NHL says it will look to relocate the franchise after the coming season.
Ice Edge, a partnership of eight investors from the United States and Canada, said it will bid up to $150 million, but that offer is contingent on reaching a lease agreement with Glendale by the Sept. 10 auction.
Balsillie is offering $212.5 million, but it is difficult to compare that bid with the other two. Balsillie's bid includes $104 million for Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, who says he loaned the franchise $300 million and is the lead unsecured creditor. The NHL and Ice Edge offers would give Moyes virtually nothing, contending the lost money is equity, not a debt, and therefore he should not be a creditor.