I am sure you have all heard by now that Judge Baum has issued a ruling in the Phoenix bankruptcy case. In short his ruling states that he cannot award Balsillie the team and allow it to relocate to Hamilton because over ruling the NHL’s ability to choose its owners and the locations of the franchises is not something that can be done within the rules of a bankruptcy court. (sidenote: it may be possible in an anti-trust lawsuit though) With respect to the NHL’s bid, Judge Baum rejected it stating that the NHL can’t pick and choose which unsecured creditors get paid and which do not. Specifically, he stated that the NHL cannot choose to pay off in full most unsecured creditors while not leaving much money for Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Moyes, but he left the door open to the NHL to submit a revised bid. So where does that leave us now?
With respect to Balsillie, he has issued a statement saying he will not appeal the decision and has accepted the judges decision.
“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.”
It sounds as if Balsillie has given up on his quest to be an NHL owner, but he hasn’t outright stated that. Time will tell, but I’d be shocked if someone so eager to get an NHL franchise will five up on owning one forever. Maybe he will wait it out and take a mode passive approach. Maybe he brought on Doug MacLean in part to attempt to try and smooth things over with the other owners and attempt once again to try and get in the front door. Maybe he is going to wait until some NHL team comes calling for a new owner and the NHL is unable to find one. Maybe he is going to hope that the Coyotes situation doesn’t turn out well for the NHL and they get stuck with the team and stuck funding substantial losses and it all backfires on Bettman and he gets fired and a new commish is brought in with a new plan and direction for the league. Who knows what Balsillie has planned now, but I have a hard time believing that his quest for an NHL team is done for good.
As for the NHL, what is there game plan now. They have successfully blocked Balsillie from owning the team, but weren’t able to gain ownership themselves. But maybe that was the best possible outcome. Does the NHL really want to own the Coyotes? Is there really a benefit to the NHL to submit a revised bid and take ownership of the franchise or is it best to just let the franchise wallow in the bankruptcy court for the time being while the NHL works behind the scenes to scrounge up another suitable potential owner that will put in a bid in the coming months. Whether they own the team outright or the team remains in bankruptcy the situation is more or less the same, the NHL is going to be spending the next several months looking for a new owner. The difference is, if the NHL owns the team outright they will be responsible for the losses from this point on, if the team is still in bankruptcy the NHL will still fund the sale but they will be the first to be paid when a sale is eventually made. I suppose there might be an advantage if they owned it outright in that sale negotiations can be made in private, as opposed the the public nature of bankruptcy court, but is that worth the potential losses the NHL will be responsible for? Who knows. We’ll soon find out if the NHL is really interested in owning the team or whether they just wanted to get rid of Balsillie. The future of the Coyotes is still undetermined.