Balsillie has plenty of fight left

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

BlackBerry bigwig Jim Balsillie will not give up on his dream of moving the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, despite Judge Redfield T. Baum rejecting that notion in a ruling on Monday.

Richard Rodier, Balsillie's lawyer, said yesterday at a news conference in Toronto that they will resubmit a motion to have Balsillie purchase the NHL team and move it to Hamilton, and that all is certainly not lost for the Ontario billionaire or the Steel City.

The bottom line, reiterated Rodier, is that Balsillie is the only person or group to submit a concrete offer for the team and that, eventually, the creditors, the NHL and its owners will reach the conclusion that the best move is to sell to Balsillie, who has offered $212.5 million US for the franchise. Basically, the "money talks" argument.

"To defy the laws of economics is like defying the laws of gravity. It can't be done," Rodier said.

"At the end of the proceedings and the whole process, I think the Phoenix Coyotes are going to end up in Hamilton," Rodier said. "The NHL has referred to a lot of other offers, that there were a lot of other people that were dying to keep the team in Phoenix.

"The team is still bankrupt and the team has to be sold through a bankruptcy process that's going to be administered by Judge Baum (and) our's is the only offer on the table right now, as the judge pointed out."

Rodier insisted Balsillie is still very much in the picture.

"In bankruptcy, things can come out of left field and there's a lot of time between now and Sept. 10 (the date identified for an auction to buy the team). There are other hooks on which the judge can hang his hat to order a relocation, other than antitrust," Rodier said.

The bottom line, he said, is that it doesn't make financial sense to keep the franchise in Glendale, where the Coyotes arena is located.

"At the end of the day, when the rubber hits the road, the (Glendale) politicians who are responsible to their voters, are going to have to say, 'If we want to keep this team here, we've got to subsidize this team to the tune of $20 million a year,'" Rodier said. "And you may hear all kinds of schemes -- we can tax this and we can tax that -- and all of a sudden the money will appear like manna from heaven. But if it doesn't, the taxpayers are on the hook."

The NHL is looking for new owners to keep the team in Phoenix. Judge Baum has encouraged Balsillie and the NHL to go to mediation to resolve the issue of the sale and relocation. Rodier said mediation will be pursued, adding that the league would ignore Balsillie's group "at their own peril."

Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly: "We believe mediation of any relocation issue is entirely premature."

Even if the sale was finalized in September, Rodier said that doesn't rule out relocation before next season.

"Look at the Seattle Pilots' case where a judge, five days before a season started, said this team can relocate, and five days later they started the baseball season," Rodier said. "In each case, you have to move some equipment, and off you go."

The Pilots played in Seattle for one season in 1969 before being acquired in bankruptcy court by current MLB commissioner Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee.

Balsillie, the co-CEO of Research in Motion, was not in attendance yesterday.


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