Melnyk in centre of Coyotes controversy

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The battle between Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie is still brewing.

Trying to strengthen his bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, Balsillie has filed court papers that say statements made by Melnyk to The Fan 590 radio station in Toronto last week indicate that the Maple Leafs hold veto rights over the territory surrounding the city.

While the league has denied the Leafs have any such power, it has been a huge issue in the case because of Balsillie's desire to move the Coyotes to Hamilton.

According to the filing, Melnyk said during an interview last week he's not allowed to hold exhibition games at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga because it's within Toronto's territory.

According to Balsillie's filings, the statements by Melnyk "might affect which bid should prevail."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the radio station Melnyk isn't completely in tune with the exact rules.

"You could tell in the hesitation in Eugene's voice that he didn't really know the rule," said Daly.

"Certainly he is familiar with the concept of territorial rights, but he probably doesn't know the niceties of the constitution and bylaws and how they interact with each with respect to territorial rights."

Asked directly if Melnyk doesn't know the rules, Daly responded: "I can't answer for Eugene Melnyk. But I think he also pointed out during that interview numerous times that he hasn't been that close to this situation and hasn't really been following that close, other than understanding that in some of Balsillie's court papers he took shots at Eugene.

"Certainly that elicited a response."

In an e-mail, Senators spokesman Phil Legault said Melnyk will have no further comment on the matter.

-- With files from Canadian Press


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