SUN Hockey Pool

Judge: Relocation fee is the "ultimate test"

Steve Simmons, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:47 PM ET

PHOENIX - The judge presiding over the bankruptcy case of the Phoenix Coyotes has called the relocation fees payable to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres as the "ultimate test" in Jim Ballillie's attempt to move the Coyotes to Hamilton.

Judge Redfield T. Baum said today that the transfer payment issue must be resolved in order to protect the creditors best interests in Balsillie's $212.5 million US offer to purchase and move the Coyotes.

Baum has asked the four major parties in this complex case - Balsillie, the National Hockey League, former owner Jerry Moyes and the city of Glendale, Ariz., to solve that issue before he is willing to make his final ruling of this unruly case.

Baum said he hoped the matter could be resolved but wasn't "going to hold my breath on this one."

Balsillie had earlier indicated that if the relocation costs were too high he woud walk away from his purchase. Lawyers for Balsillie argued in court Tuesday that precedent of transfer fees or relocation fees work in her clients favour.

There have been earlier hints from the Toronto Maple Leafs that they would object to a Hamilton franchise under any circumstances.

The NHL has offered to operate the Coyotes in Phoenix next season should the Balsillie bid not go through but Baum expressed concern that the creditors would be hurt by what he called a "depreciated asset."

Time is working against Balsillie, who has put a June 30 deadline on his bankruptcy purchase.

Clearly Judge Baum, who commented on the amount of filings he's had to deal with, said: "if this is an endurance contest I'll concede.

"I promise you," Baum told the rows of lawyers in court, "quite possibly all of you will be unhappy when I make a ruling."

The case continues.


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