-- Not long into a four-hour hearing related to the Phoenix Coyotes
here in U.S. Bankruptcy court, Judge Redfield T. Baum wanted to make an announcement.
"To save the suspense I'm not going to rule from the bench today," Baum told a packed courtroom before the hearing, quieting the anticipation of possible rulings on who controls the Coyotes' franchise and whether it could be allowed to relocate by way of bankruptcy court.
Instead, Baum ordered mediation between the NHL and Jerry Moyes to determine who has control of the franchise. Mediation is not binding, but Baum made it clear Tuesday he would intervene if necessary.
"The court orders both parties to mediate the control issues," Baum said prior to a recess. "The court expects the parties to pursue that as quickly as possible and wants a status report ... May 27 at 9 a.m."
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said "it may be the parties [NHL and Moyes] can come up with their own mechanism" for deciding who is in control. Expect the lawyers to be talking between now and a week from Wednesday, he said. Baum expects to hear that progress has been made. A resolution is likely to take more time.
Ultimately, Baum will rule on whether Moyes has the right to put the NHL team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The League has argued in court documents that Moyes gave up control of the franchise in a proxy agreement he signed in November after getting a cash advance from the NHL to help keep the Coyotes afloat.
Moyes says he never gave up control of the team and argues that he has a right to place it into bankruptcy, opening the door for Jim Balsillie's bid to buy the team and move it to Hamilton, Ontario. Balsillie is the CEO of Research in Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry.
Baum said any issue concerning a potential relocation of the team would have to be resolved before a sale of the franchise. He instructed the NHL and Moyes to make oral arguments about relocation in court June 22. The NHL and Moyes filed documents on the issue earlier this month.
Daly said it is possible Baum will rule June 22 on whether relocation can be part of a bankruptcy-related sale of the Coyotes, but the judge might also take more time to consider his decision.
"I was very impressed that the judge obviously was very well prepared, very familiar with the material that both sides had submitted and identified the issues very clearly," said Daly.