PHOENIX — The NHL has agreed to allow depositions from commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and two of the league’s owners in the contentious bankruptcy proceedings of the Phoenix Coyotes.
However, the league wants Judge Redfield T. Baum to reject the proposed deposition of Toronto Maples Leafs owner Richard Peddie.
Lawyers for Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie want to question Peddie over what role the Maple Leafs might play in the proposed relocation of the Coyotes to Hamilton. The league contends the relocation issue is moot because the NHL board of governors has overwhelmingly rejected Balsillie as an owner.
The league also objected to requests for information regarding the potential relocation as well as the transfer of NHL teams in the past.
The NHL, in a document filed Wednesday under Baum’s direction, wants depositions from Balsillie, his top aide, Richard Rodier, Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and his lawyer, Earl Scudder, and Coyotes president and CEO Doug Moss.
At a hearing Tuesday, Baum told the parties to file their requests for information and depositions on Wednesday but warned he planned only to allow “limited discovery” based on the compressed time schedule that has the sale of the team set for Sept. 10.
He has scheduled a Sept. 2 hearing on whether he should disregard the NHL board’s 26-0 rejection of Balsillie and designate him a qualified bidder for the team. Such a ruling almost certainly would trigger an immediate appeal by the league over whether it has the legal right to determine who owns its franchises.
In addition to Bettman and Daly — who already have been deposed once — the league agreed to provide Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold for questioning.
Both owners filed declarations supporting the league’s vote against Balsillie. Jacobs is president of the board of governors and Leipold, former owner of the Nashville franchise, said his unfavourable view of Balsillie stems from the Canadian’s attempt to purchase the Predators in 2006.
In a document filed Wednesday by PSE Sports & Entertainment, the company formed by Balsillie to pursue the Coyotes, lawyers say they want to question Peddie because PSE believes “the Maple Leafs are trying to block PSE’s purchase of the Coyotes in order to prevent a Hamilton relocation and competition with the Maples Leafs in southern Ontario.”
The league, Jacobs and Leipold contend in court documents that the vote to reject Balsillie was done entirely separate from any consideration of moving the Coyotes.
Lawyers for the debtors in possession of the franchise, a group headed by Moyes, also want to question Peddie but listed him next-to-last on their document, just ahead of an “unknown individual the NHL has stated will issue a declaration regarding the purported impossibility of relocating the Coyotes for the 2009-10 season.”
The Coyotes open training camp on Sept. 12, two days after the team is to be sold. Their first exhibition game is scheduled for Sept. 15, a split squad contest with the Kings with games to be played in Glendale and Los Angeles.