Balsillie, NHL might both end up without Coyotes

PHOENIX — It turns out there’s a surprise third option available to the judge charged with deciding the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes — and it probably won’t be to the liking of either Gary Bettman or Jim Balsillie.

PHOENIX — It turns out there’s a surprise third option available to the judge charged with deciding the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes — and it probably won’t be to the liking of either Gary Bettman or Jim Balsillie.

Judge Redfield T. Baum raised the possibility that he might not award the team to either the NHL or Balsillie’s company PSE as a two-day auction for the bankrupt franchise began Thursday.

The revelation came early in the proceedings and sent a ripple through the courtroom. Jordan Kroop, a lawyer for former Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes, was speaking about the potential bids when he was interrupted by the judge.

“There is a third opportunity when we’re done here — no sale,” said Baum.

“Theoretically,” Kroop responded.

“I think it’s more than theoretical,” said Baum. “You all ought to keep that in mind.”

The exchange set an uncertain tone to an auction process that most observers believed would end with a new owner for the money-losing franchise. Evidently, that’s no longer a certainty.

“I’m not going to predict (what might happen),” said Bettman. “We all heard him say it, we’ll all have to see what happens.”

The full-day hearing produced one final surprise just as it was ending, when the NHL’s lawyers informed the judge that they don’t wish to cross-examine Balsillie on Friday morning. He and the commissioner had each been scheduled to take the stand.

There was no reason given for the sudden change in plans.

“You’ll have to draw your own conclusions,” offered Bettman.

The parties will each have the opportunity to tweak their bids before the auction wraps up.

Baum reaffirmed the offers from the two sides at the outset of Thursday’s hearing and asked the court if there was any other bids to be considered in the auction. No one else stepped forward.

It left the only bidders as Bettman and Balsillie — men that were both on the sidelines on the first day of hearings, leaving the floor to lawyers and the stand to a handful of experts from each side.

If what took place is a prelude of what’s to come, it should make for compelling theatre when Bettman is questioned before Friday’s auction.

Balsillie lawyer Jeffrey Kessler and NHL lawyer Shep Goldfein took turns cross-examining economic experts on Thursday, hammering away with probing questions that aimed to undermine declarations and reports they had previously filed in U.S. Bankruptcy court. The exchanges were at times compelling.

Each lawyer managed to pluck some interesting admissions from those on the witness stand — PSE economic expert Andrew Zimbalast conceded that an expansion team could work in Glendale (with a US$15-million yearly subsidy from the city) while NHL experts Franklin Fisher and Michael Rabkoch each admitted that a team in Hamilton, where Balsillie wants to move the Coyotes, would rank in the top five in league revenues by their calculations.

Ultimately, the hours spent asking questions about franchise values and relocation fees is not likely to play into the judge’s decision regarding the auction. Baum even spoke up at one point during the afternoon and expressed concern that the issues didn’t seem to warrant the attention they were receiving.

The judge has seemed reluctant throughout the four-month case to make a ruling that would be precedent-setting for the other major pro sports leagues and it’s starting to look less likely that he’ll break from that pattern this week. Not that any of the principles were speculating on how things might turn out.

“In the final analysis, the judge will make a decision and we’ll all know what it is,” said Bettman. “This is part of me being a lapsed lawyer — I don’t like to second guess judges or prognosticate what they’re going to do.

“This is the judge’s procedure now. He’ll render the decision and conduct the proceedings as he sees fit.”

Balsillie enters the auction with the highest bid, as much as US$242.5 million, but it’s contingent on moving the Coyotes to Hamilton. He upped his offer over the weekend by extending Glendale as much as $50 million in exchange for the city’s claims against a move out of Jobing.com Arena.

The NHL has offered $140 million in a bid that came under heavy questioning from the judge, who seemed unsure of the degree in which it might satisfy the various creditors.

“I can’t approve a bid I don’t understand,” said Baum.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Travellers arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto early Monday, February 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
New rules appear to push international air travel down even further than pre-pandemic

OTTAWA — Canada’s new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules for international air… Continue reading

Canopy Growth Corp. will deepen its U.S. presence by launching four sparkling cannabidiol waters, shown in a handout photo, there before possible federal legalization. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canopy Growth
Canopy Growth launches first CBD drinks in U.S. as legalization talk intensifies

Quatreau sparkling waters will be sold through e-commerce

A nurse assistant prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program for health workers at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andre Penner
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 needs better promotion: experts

National Advisory Committee on Immunization makes recommendations

A man receives his COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Olympic Stadium marking the beginning of mass vaccination in the Province of Quebec based on age in Montreal, on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Most Canadians confident federal vaccine rollout is back on track: poll

Fifty-six per cent of respondents confident in vaccine supply

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

A nurse assistant prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program for health workers at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andre Penner
COVID-19 cases start to climb again as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are… Continue reading

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Statistics Canada to release final economic figures for 2020, January GDP estimate

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is expected to say today precisely how bad… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2020, file photo, former NBA player Shaquille O’ Neal is interviewed on the red carpet for Shaq’s Fun House in Miami. O’Neal is set to perform in his first competitive match when he teams in All Elite Wrestling with Jade Cargill in a mixed tag to take on Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet at Daily’s Place on an episode of “Dynamite,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Shaq Attack: O’Neal ready to rumble in tag match for AEW

O’Neal’s first competitive match with All Elite Wrestling

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, center, speaks during a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)
Tokyo Olympics add 12 women to executive board to reach 42 per cent

Board will now have 19 women among its 45 members

The Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre is shown in Stratford, Ont., on May 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins
Stratford Festival plans next stages with two outdoor summer venues

Ontario festival productions set for between late June and the end of September

Treena Mielke
From record player to CD

When I first began dating my husband, he drove a little old… Continue reading

Opinion
Ottawa banks on Big Pharma making Canada pandemic-proof

Liberal fireball François-Philippe Champagne may be brand new to his portfolio as… Continue reading

Most Read