September 30, 2009
Throughout the Phoenix Coyotes' bankruptcy case/ownership squabble, Judge Redfield T. Baum appeared perturbed that the parties couldn't figure out their problems on their own. He also was steadfast in wanting all of those owed money in the bankruptcy to be properly reimbursed by the winning bid.
Those two desires were at the forefront of his decision to reject both the NHL's bid and that of Jim Balsillie for the troubled franchise on various legal grounds today. The NHL's bid, however, still has life. From the Globe & Mail:
"In hockey parlance, the court is passing the puck to the NHL, who can decide to take another shot at the sale net or it can pass off the puck," Judge Baum wrote.
Judge Baum threw out a bid by Jim Balsillie saying it could not succeed because he cannot properly satisfy the NHL's rights regarding relocation.
"In the final analysis, the court cannot find or conclude that the interests of the NHL can be adequately protected if the Coyotes are moved to Hamilton without first having a final decision regarding the claimed rights of the NHL and the claims of the debtors and [Balsillie]," the judge ruled.
As that last statement indicates, Baum's ruling soundly rejected the Balsillie plan to use the courts to own the team, reinforcing the NHL's claim that it should be able to control the identity of its owners and location of its franchises. Or as the AP put it:
Balsillie’s bid, which rose to $242 million in an effort to persuade the city of Glendale to drop its opposition, was denied outright by the judge, who said the NHL had the legal right to determine who owns its member teams and where they play.
"This conclusion effectively is the end for the efforts of PSE, Balsillie, Moyes and the Coyotes to force a sale and relocation of the hockey team. …," Baum wrote.
The NHL's $140 million bid was rejected, but Baum indicated that there were fixable problems within the bid; namely, the picking and choosing of creditors who are compensated, such in the case of former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and former coach Wayne Gretzky.
Coming up, two revealing passages from Baum's ruling.
A .pdf of the ruling can be found here via NHL.com, so that should tell you how things went for the League today.
First, on the NHL's bid:
Clearly, Moyes and Gretzky are going to get paid if the NHL wants this bid approved. On Balsillie's bid:
It was always expected that Baum wasn't enthusiastic about rewriting NHL bylaws in his eventual ruling, and that's obviously the case.
Where do we go from here? There's obviously still a good chance the NHL can amend its bid and win the auction. But at first glance, the ruling seems to take away the court option from Balsillie so long as he's been rejected by the NHL Board of Governors. Which brings us back to what Bill Daly said over the weekend in DC: The side door is closed. Next time, try the front again.
Check out AZCentral reporter Brahm Resnik on Twitter for much more coverage. The NHL seems like it's in prime position to keep the team in Phoenix ... but it still needs an owner willing to take a mighty financial risk on what is, after this court fiasco, "dead franchise walking" at the moment.
UPDATE: Here's Balsillie's statement. It's actually, finally over.
"From the beginning, my attempt to relocate the Coyotes to Hamilton has been about Canadian hockey fans and Canadian hockey. It was a chance to realize a dream. All I wanted was a fair chance to bring a seventh NHL team to Canada, to serve the best unserved hockey fans in the world. I believe I got that chance. I respect the court’s decision, and I will not be putting forward an appeal."
"Nobody can deny that we are now a big step closer to having a seventh NHL team in Canada. It doesn’t matter who owns that team. When that day comes, I will be the first in line to buy a ticket to the home opener."
"I want to take this opportunity to thank my family for all their love and support. I also want to thank the more than 200,000 fans who supported the bid online and the countless others who contacted me personally to show their support. This bid always was about the game we all love."