Coyotes tug of war goes on

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Who controls the Phoenix Coyotes?

Southern Ontario hockey fans thirsting for the franchise to move into the area will have to wait for the answer.

Judge Redfield T. Baum, presiding in a Phoenix-based U.S. bankruptcy court yesterday, ordered the National Hockey League and Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes into mediation in an attempt to finally quash the he-said, she-said squabble between the two sides over who controls the financially strapped franchise.

The NHL and Moyes will reconvene at a May 27 hearing in order to report their progress, a daunting task considering the two sides have been locked in a feud that would make the Hatfields and the McCoys proud.

Why are we arguing about who has their hands on the steering wheel of a car that's going to be sold in 60 days?

The debate of who controls the team had been the key issue in the days leading up to the bankruptcy proceedings.

According to court documents, the NHL claims Moyes inked a proxy agreement in November that gave the league control of the team, a document that came after Moyes received funds from the NHL to keep the franchise from going under.

Moyes argues he never surrendered control, thereby making his recent declaration of bankruptcy legitimate.

BlackBerry magnate Jim Balsillie moved swiftly when Moyes first declared bankruptcy two weeks ago and tabled a $212.5-million US offer, a bid that included the caveat that the franchise be moved to southern Ontario.

Once again, the NHL disagrees. The league insists Balsillie couldn't move the team to Hamilton like he wants without the approval of the board of governors.

Calling the issue a hot-button topic, Baum set June 22 as the date to hear arguments about relocation -- specifically, Balsillie's desire to move the franchise to Steeltown.

The NHL certainly has the support of the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, which filed court documents stating the bankruptcy proceedings could establish the type of legal precedent that would disrupt the business of professional sports.

Baum established that a decision must be hammered out about whether the Coyotes can be relocated before any auction to sell the team could be held.

Needing more time to scan the hundreds of documents involved, Baum made it clear early on in the proceedings that no final verdict would be made by the end of the day.

"To save the suspense, I'm not going to rule from the bench today," he told the court.

The waiting game continues.

-- with files from Canadian Press


Videos

Photos