by PuckStopsHere on 08/26/09 at 06:21 PM ET
The Phoenix Coyotes situation is quickly becoming an even bigger mess than it had already become. The team is in bankruptcy and goes to auction on September 10th. Various hearings will be held in between now and the auction to try to sort out a mess of legal wranglings.
The NHL was dismayed to learn that Jerry Reinsdorf`s group (he is the Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner - and the NHL`s preferred Phoenix owner) has pulled out of the bidding. He has been unable to get sufficient concessions from Glendale, Arizona, where the Coyotes play and cites negative publicity from this sale as having eroded demand in the Phoenix market.
Stepping in to bid is a group called Ice Edge Holdings who are prepared to offer about $150 million and claim to be interested in revitalizing hockey in Phoenix and the Southwestern US. They are a group of local owners, who likely will be strapped financially with an NHL franchise and as such are not the NHL`s ideal solution.
Hence, the NHL has announced their intent to bit on the Coyotes. The exact details of the NHL bid are unclear at this point. Likely they will make a minimal investment in the Coyotes and try to flip them to a new owner as soon as they can. Ideally, they want to run things similarly to the way Major League Baseball did with the Montreal Expos before they were sold to the group that moved them to Washington to be the Washington Nationals. From a baseball standpoint, the Nationals are still struggling from the damage done to the organization when it was league run. They were moved to Washington in 2005 and have had little success since then. Today they are last in the Major Leagues.
The largest bid financially is that of Jim Balsillie, the Blackberry magnate who wants to move the team to Hamilton. He is offering $212.5 million contingent upon moving the team to Hamilton. That is significantly more money than anyone else is willing to offer at this point. He has imposed a September 14th deadline to have all legal wrangling completed (that is one day before the Coyotes play their first pre-season game).
The NHL does not want Balsillie to get the team. They do not want the Coyotes to be moved. It doesn`t matter that they are failing financially in Phoenix and likely will continue failing well into the future. They want a significant payment for the territorial rights to Southern Ontario (which is money that does not count as revenue under the salary cap - so the players get none of it). They have already voted 26-0 that Balsillie is not an acceptable owner, but this will likely be seen as a self-serving move due to the other league interests (especially now that they are bidding for the franchise).
Of the scenarios available, Jim Balsillie taking the Coyotes to Hamilton is the best one for the team. Anything else leaves them in their death spiral in Phoenix, which is only getting worse as time passes. It is the only ray of hope for the franchise that may provide a fresh start. The longer the legal wrangling goes on, the worse things get for the Phoenix franchise. Despite any talent they may have, they are a leading contender to finish last in the league this year due to their financial issues.
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