-- During a public forum Wednesday morning featuring the commissioners of America's four major sports leagues, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated the League's commitment to keeping the Phoenix Coyotes
in Glendale, Ariz. The first question during the forum sponsored by The Wall Street Journal was about news reports that a bankruptcy petition related to the Coyotes had been filed Tuesday.
"I have to be circumspect in how I answer this question for two reasons," said Bettman, sitting alongside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and NBA boss David Stern. "One, this is, and will be, the subject of litigation. Two, based on the way this unfolded we have yet to see the papers that have been filed.
"The Coyotes have had some economic issues during this year and the League has been working with Mr. (Jerry) Moyes, who's having his own financial issues to keep the club current in its obligations."
Attorneys for the NHL plan to appear Thursday afternoon at the hearing scheduled in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix.
Bettman said he was "actually on my way to a meeting with Mr. Moyes (Tuesday) in Phoenix to go over the offers that we had for the club when I was advised of the bankruptcy petition, not because creditors were working and seeking redress for not being paid," but because there was an offer to buy the franchise and move it, apparently, from Jim Balsillie, co-CEO, Research In Motion, which makes the Blackberry.
"This is not about whether or not we want a franchise in southern Ontario and whether or not Mr. Balsillie would make a suitable owner that the (NHL) owners would approve," explained Bettman. "This is about the League rules and the enforceability of our rules, whether or not Mr. Moyes even had the authority to file a bankruptcy petition is something we're going to get into. This is more about the tactic and I think a challenge to League rules than it is about economic conditions of the club, which we believe, with new ownership and with accommodations the city of Glendale is prepared to make, we think can succeed."
In a League-issued statement, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the Club. The League will appear and proceed before the Bankruptcy Court in the best interests of all of the Club's constituencies, including its fans in Arizona and the League's 29 other Member Clubs."
The city of Glendale also issued its own statement to inform Coyotes fans: "The decision by the ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes
to initiate bankruptcy proceedings without consultation or approval of the National Hockey League is an unfortunate turn of events for the NHL, the State of Arizona and the Coyotes' loyal fans. Even as the propriety of this unprecedented action is being thoroughly investigated by the NHL, city officials are working diligently to ensure that the public's interest is fully protected throughout this process."