The Continuing Saga: Bettman Prefers Winnipeg

The following CBC story is very intriguing. It turns out that previously, instead of selling the Nashville Predators to Jim Balsillie, the league allowed the team to be sold to another for a much lower price. How come? And it sure looks like the Toronto gang has put the hammer down on the commissioner. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.

 

Bettman would rather see Coyotes in Winnipeg

CBC Sports

Gary Bettman has allegedly said he would rather see the Phoenix Coyotes move to Winnipeg than Hamilton, according to documents filed in the team’s bankruptcy court case.

Earl Scudder, a lawyer who works for Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes, filed an affidavit Friday that said the NHL commissioner told him this when he contacted Bettman last month to make him aware there was a buyer interested in purchasing the team and moving it to southern Ontario.

According to The Canadian Press news agency, Bettman allegedly told Scudder that Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum isn’t an ideal destination because it’s over 30 years old, saying “if the team did return to Canada, it would be Winnipeg,” according to the document filed.

The statement went on to say the only way Bettman would allow a second NHL team in southern Ontario was through expansion.
The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes in 1996.

Among the items in Jim Balsillie’s court filings Friday was the suggestion that the NHL is preventing a move to Hamilton in part because of pressure from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who allegedly want to keep the hockey-rich market solely in their possession.
Though the NHL rules on territorial rights remain murky at best, Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum is technically outside the 80-km boundary imposed by the league.
But any franchise that moves into southern Ontario will almost certainly cut into the Leafs’ profits.
The organization is staying mum on the subject.

When CBCSports.ca contacted the team for a response to Balsillie’s comments and what the organization thought its territorial rights were, a Leaf representative said he had no comment on the matter and didn’t expect to have one until at least Tuesday when the bankruptcy case wraps up.

The news came one day after billionaire Jim Balsillie said he is willing to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona for an extra season as long as his eventual relocation plans are approved, according to other documents filed Friday by Balsillie’s group.
But that was one item in a long list of complaints on how the league is mishandling the matter.
“We are willing to pay the full purchase price,” the filing said. “And we are willing to have the team remain in Glendale for a further year if the NHL is prepared to fund the losses for the year and respect the decision of this court by foregoing any rights of appeal as long as we know we will be permitted to move the team to Hamilton, Ont. for the following season.”

The same documents, filed by Balsillie-owned PSE Sports & Entertainment, fired back at the NHL in response to the league’s attacks on the Canadian billionaire during his attempt to buy the bankrupt franchise, saying that any NHL decision to block or stall Balsillie’s plans is not based on sound business practices.
“If the decision is to deny the relocation application or stall the consideration of it, we believe that would likely be on account of an effort to block competition in the Toronto area or a dislike of Mr. Balsillie and would be unreasonable, illegal and an abuse of discretion, in violation of antitrust laws,” the filing said.

The documents argued that relocating the team to southern Ontario is the best move to make from a business standpoint, because the franchise would be better served in a hockey-mad market like Hamilton.
“Children in Canada often strap on hockey skates before they start school and grow up in an atmosphere of intense hockey enthusiasm,” the filing said.
“Children in Arizona do not, and most never step on an ice rink. PSE believes that the Coyotes simply do not have a sufficiently large base of paying fans in the Glendale area to ever generate enough money to repay the Coyotes’ existing debts, let alone turn a profit, and certainly do not have sufficient support to justify a purchase price of $212.5 million if forced to remain in Glendale.”

A rally to help keep the Coyotes in Phoenix was held by local fans Saturday morning at a sports bar near Glendale called Native New Yorker. It drew about 100 people, according to a Phoenix CBS television station contacted by CBCSports.ca.

The filing also questioned the motives of the NHL during the failed Balsillie attempt to buy the Nashville Predators nearly two years ago.
“Instead of selling the Nashville Predators to [Balsillie], the team was sold to William (Boots) Del Biaggio and other local owners at a considerably lower price,” the filing said.
“Apparently because the then-owner believed the NHL would not approve Mr. Balsillie as the new owner of the Nashville team, presumably based upon discussions with the NHL commissioner.
“Mr. Del Biaggio was recently charged with fraud and acquiring the Nashville Predators with Ponzi scheme money, which a thorough due diligence inquiry like the one previously conducted on Mr. Balsillie likely would have exposed.”

Locked in struggle
The NHL and Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes are locked in a struggle for control of the team, after Moyes filed for bankruptcy protection last week.
The league alleges that it has been in control of the team since November, after loaning money to the franchise so it could cover its costs, and that Moyes signed documents stipulating that he couldn’t file for bankruptcy.
Soon after the bankruptcy filing, Balsillie, billionaire co-CEO of Waterloo-based BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, offered $212.5 million US to the Coyotes, provided that he could move the team to southern Ontario.

In court documents filed Thursday during the bankruptcy hearing, the league called Balsillie’s attempt to buy the franchise (his third try at purchasing an NHL team) “illusory, at best, and a sham, at worst,” and said that the bid breaks fundamental rules in the NHL constitution.
Judge Redfield Baum is presiding over the case in U.S. bankruptcy court and will render a decision Tuesday on who owns the Coyotes.

NHL ACCOMODATING THE LEAF?

Among the items in Jim Balsillie’s court filings Friday was the suggestion that the NHL is preventing a move to Hamilton in part because of pressure from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who allegedly want to keep the hockey-rich market solely in their possession.

Though the NHL rules on territorial rights remain murky at best, Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum is technically outside the 80-km boundary imposed by the league.

But any franchise that moves into southern Ontario will almost certainly cut into the Leafs’ profits.

The organization is staying mum on the subject.

When CBCSports.ca contacted the team for a response to Balsillie’s comments and what the organization thought its territorial rights were, a Leaf representative said he had no comment on the matter and didn’t expect to have one until at least Tuesday when the bankruptcy case wraps up.

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