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Hamilton Coyotes? Phoenix Files for Bankruptcy ... Jim Balsillie Ready to 'Make it Seven'

Coyotes2 With the Miami Heat now done taking up big chunks of my time, I can now turn my complete attention to hockey (although I must admit I've enjoyed these NBA playoffs. Save for the Heat/Hawks series. That sucked.)

Big news in the league today is the impeding demise of what we've come to know and love as the Phoenix Coyotes.

Looks like they may be heading back to Canada.

As you may remember, the Winnipeg Jets were struggling financially in Canada and moved to Phoenix as part of commissioner Gary Bettman's grand plan to introduce the game to non traditional markets.

It's worked in some (Dallas, Anaheim, San Jose) and not so much in others. Phoenix is one of those places.

Poor product, a bad arena location and an owner's financial troubles have led the Coyotes to file for bankruptcy today. The league says they are removing owner Jerry Moyes from having anything to do with the team, so I guess we can assume the league will be running the Coyotes during this time (as the Arizona Republic reported they were doing anyway a few days ago).

A fresh story on today's Republic website says in the team's filing is a provision to sell the team to a group led by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, the owner of Research In Motion (home of the Blackberry). Moyes toCoppsld the paper that he has an offer from Balsillie for over $200 million, with all the people owed money by the team getting paid (except, perhaps, for investors, although I seriously doubt that).

The team could be playing in Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, by fall.

Balsillie already has a website up and going where fans (assuming Canadian ones since he doesn't care about the ones in Arizona) can sign up to support the move and make the Coyotes the seventh NHL team to be based in Canada.

Log on to makeitseven.ca for more info...

Here's my take: Moyes got the offer from Balsillie but knows the league wouldn't let him sell to him knowing the team would be on the move. The league still wants to make Phoenix work; losing a U.S. television market is not something the NHL wants nor needs.

By going into bankruptcy court, the NHL loses a lot of its power. Moyes is not a very popular person with the league right now, but he's lost a ton of cash and may not care about the feelings of the league right now (although they did help him stay afloat financially).

The highest bidder for this team is going to get it. And no one is going to outbid Balsillie. No one who wants to keep the team in Glendale, Arizona, anyway. And Balsillie is prepared to loan the team $17 million so it can keep things running until the deal goes through -- and therefore also become a creditor, putting himself in the middle of the court hearings. Smart and nifty.

(Seventeen million? The season is over? What they got going on in Glendale during the offseason that they need $17 million smackers? Anyway...)

The NHL says Moyes is no longer in power of the franchise, and the league will be representing the team during court hearings (according to the paper, the league is owed $35 million for loan payments). But Coyotes Moyes is listed as a creditor as well, saying he's owed over $100 million. So, I'm no lawyer, but I think he's going to have some say in court no matter what the league wants.

And by going to court, the lease with the city of Glendale can be negated. Which means the team can move somewhere else.

Again, I'm no lawyer, but I can predict this thing getting pretty messy as we go along. 

It's a shame things didn't work out (I guess it still could) in Arizona. Great place to visit, pretty good fans there. But the on-ice product has been pretty crummy for years, and the arena is in the middle of nowhere. Which is fine if you are going to two Arizona Cardinals games a month. You'll make that drive to see the Dallas Cowboys. But for 41 hockey games? Not going to happen. Hasn't happened.

Jim Balsillie failed in his bid to move Nashville and the Penguins to Hamilton, but thanks to Jerry Moyes and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, he may just get him a team after all.

Olliphoenix2 And according to Moyes' remarks in the Arizona Republic, a new owner could be in place by June. Meaning the Coyotes could be playing exhibition games in Canada by September. Someone call the Panthers. They'll come up for a game or two.

"The process assures that the identities of the new owner and the team's location will be known by June 30, 2009,'' Moyes told the Republic, ''thus enabling the NHL to include the team in its 2009-10 schedule."

A statement from Balsillie:

“The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant Balsillie discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario.

“I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best unserved hockey markets in the world — southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than seven million people.”

Here's an updated story from the Globe & Mail in Canada.

Hard to believe, but the Coyotes may leave the desert without their fans ever getting to say their proper goodbyes. And that sucks.

-- And I am serious about the Panthers playing the Hamilton team come September. Have already been told that the team is probably going to western Canada at the start of training camp, then will work its way east and will probably stop in Montreal for a game or two.

Me thinks Hamilton will work its way onto the Florida schedule, especially since they will be flush in cash and able to write the check.

No six games in six nights like last year, but expect them to play four or five preseason games before heading home. And then to Europe. Air Panther strikes again.

-- Here's some more from the Arizona Republic:

* NHL denies that it's running the Coyotes (as reported by the paper thanks to a ticked-off sounding Glendale city official)

* Coyotes are in big financial trouble..

Comments

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Welcome back. Any new information regarding the prospective sale of the Panthers and/or its consequences?

As for the Coyotes, there is no way that the bankruptcy sale is resolved by June 30. The Chapter 11 reorganization proceeding is too complicated and will likely involve a protracted legal struggle with the NHL, not to mention the City of Glendale.

I knew Balsillie wanted to purchase the Predators not too long ago. Well, it looks like he'll finally get his team. Good for him and good for Canada.

Ballsillie will probably be a better owner than Alan Cohen or Jeffrey Loria (Marlins)!

George- I read somewhere about the possibility of Coyotes back to Winnipeg...any truth? Also, ditto on the above post regarding the Panthers sale and what that will do to future payroll. Thanks,

Also want to know more about the potential Panthers sale and/or merger. Time to put your investigative reporter hat on George!

I have good sources in Winnipeg that preparations are being made to bring the Coyotes home. The sale to Balsillie is only if the team moves to Southern Ontario and that would have to have a league vote which Balsillie would not get. The NHL has owners ready to move the team to Winnipeg, which is a no brainer. Easy to do the team stays in the Western Conference, has a fairly new downtown arena that is adding seats, has a built in fan base and history in the city and does not have to sell the game to some of the best hockey fans in the world. Balsillie is like Al Davis of the Oakland Raider and the league knows this and doesn't want him. Winnipeg deserves their team back, welcome back Winnipeg Jets!

No way this can get done by next season. Toronto and Buffalo are going to put up a BIG stink about this. There was talk just a few days ago about Toronto, thinking, about letting a team move in NORTH of the city. No way will they OK a deal to allow a team in Hamilton. Buffalo is going to go crazy as well. This is going to get very ugly. I think we'll see the league shrunk by one team for next season.

yea Hamilton is way too close to Buffalo and Toronto. This fixation with Southern Ontario is what I don't like. Just move the team to Western Canada, preferably just make a return of Winnipeg Jets.

Hopefully this will be the end of Canada's hunt for Southern US team, for a while and we won't have to keep hearing about how the Panthers need to go... at least for another season or so.

As a Coyotes fan in Phoenix (formerly from S. Florida), I have to say this sucks. You are absolutely right about the arena location, though. My wife and I got to about 10 games this year (including what now may be the final game...a shootout winner, at least), but most of those were on weekends, since driving across town in rush-hour traffic to make a 7p start is killer. We WANT to buy season tickets, but can't imagine the drive 41 times a year.

from what I hear (this is from conversations from salespeople and others inside the arena) the deal is expected to go down...it's a pure investment deal bringing a bunch of cash to cohen and company...shouldn't change much as far as the day-to-day goes, but alan cohen will have more people to bounce things off of and won't have to be the bad guy when he has to make changes (say if the team doesn't make the playoffs next year and they decide to blow things up once more)...I'm letting our business side of the paper handle this one and helping out when I can...something should be coming out in a few weeks I would think...

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