Last night, the NHL was clearly caught with its pants down when the one-two punch of the Phoenix Coyotes' Chapter 11 filing and Jim Balsillie's opportunistic takeover bid were both made public. Today, however, was the Wrath of Gary.
Not only is Balsillie getting muddied up in the media, but Phoenix Business Journal reports that the NHL will ask a U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Thursday that the Chapter 11 filing be tossed out. From the Journal:
Dan Gaffney, a bankruptcy attorney for Snell & Wilmer LLP, said if the NHL's takeover of the team is legal then it could have standing to ask for dismissal or changes in the filing. That could keep the team in the Phoenix market.
NHL Commissioner [Gary] Bettman said the Coyotes should remain in Arizona and questioned whether Moyes had the authority to file bankruptcy and sell the team.
The league loaned money to the Phoenix Coyotes in February, a deal that included provisions to take over the team if need be. Moyes and the NHL have been looking for possible investors and new owners amid the team's financial troubles.
"This is about the league rules and the enforceability of our rules, whether or not Mr. Moyes even had the authority to file a bankruptcy petition is something we're going to get into," Bettman said in statements on the league run Web site NHLcom. "This is more about the tactic and I think a challenge to league rules than it is about economic conditions of the club, which we believe, with new ownership and with accommodations the city of Glendale is prepared to make, we think can succeed."
Stubborn to the end, and why not? Bettman's lost some rounds to Balsillie before, but he's never been the one knocked out. So while the Web site that's promoting the BlackBerry CEO's bid for a seventh Canadian franchise has over 50,000 pledges of support from fans, he's also getting slaughtered in the media for what's seen as ego-driven hubris that will ultimately fail.
But if he honestly believes he can pull an end-run on commissioner Gary Bettman, secure an NHL franchise, move it, and use a public website to drum up support for a seventh Canadian franchise, then he is either getting terrible advice or he is simply fond of banging his head against the wall. Because that's all he can accomplish here. This is a war he may not be able to win.
Even if he's willing to overpay for the moribund Coyotes, which he is.
Even if he's wanting to put another franchise in southern Ontario, which makes too much sense, the NHL doesn't work this way. You have to have finesse to get into this club. You have to be subtle.
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Does he really want a team, or is he more interested in kicking sand in commissioner Gary Bettman's corn flakes?
It's a fair question following Balsillie's latest bid to join the NHL owners club, an offer of a whopping $212.5 million for the troubled Phoenix Coyotes provided he can move them to Southern Ontario.
Like his earlier bids to acquire and then move the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators, this gambit looks like it has almost no hope of succeeding in large part because Balsillie continues to try the old end-around as opposed to a more conciliatory approach.
Diplomacy definitely is not in Balsillie's vocabulary, and he appears more like a man who believes that simply because he is richer than rich, Canadian and owns a pair of skates and a stick, it is his birthright to own an NHL franchise.
Guess what? Balsillie is not the only rich guy in the room, although his actions regularly suggest he thinks he is.
And so on. Never mind Balsillie can't crack the old boys network because of his brash prior attempts at ownership. Never mind Bettman seems as determined to keep him out of the NHL as Balsillie is to get in. His champions in the media right now are few. Maybe that changes if this situation gets drawn out.
But how drawn out will it be? The NHLPA is already calling for a swift resolution, and to have the Coyotes' location for next season determined before the free agent frenzy at the start of July. PA executive director Paul Kelly has, in the past, voiced strong support for a Southern Ontario franchise. Perhaps we'll know more about the duration of this fight after Thursday.
One last item about this matter, that's been asked more than a few times: If the Coyotes relocate to Hamilton, Kitchener, Waterloo or anywhere 'round those parts, they'll probably still remain in the Western Conference.
Keep in mind the Toronto Maple Leafs are still going to have to be dealt with if a team enters their realm. Ensuring that TML still has the Montreal Canadiens and Eastern Conference rivals coming to town more often than their new neighbors is one way to do it.
Even if it means creating a Mets/Yankees scenario when all fans want to see is Rangers/Islanders.