NHL files Coyotes bid

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is submitting a bid for the Coyotes after Jerry Reinsdorf withdrew...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is submitting a bid for the Coyotes after Jerry Reinsdorf withdrew his. (Sun Media/Rob Kruyt)

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

After a summer of cheap shots and intimidation from both sides, the NHL has taken off the gloves in its battle to keep Jim Balsillie off the ice and out of the club.

In what smells of desperation after an expected bid from Jerry Reinsdorf to buy the financially teetering Phoenix Coyotes was withdrawn yesterday, the league unleashed its most stunning blow yet.

Rather than risk further court action -- or worse, seeing Judge Redfield T. Baum accept Balsillie's $212.5-million US bid to buy the club and move it to Hamilton -- the league has submitted its own offer.

The NHL bid -- for an undisclosed sum -- will be part of a scheduled Sept. 10 bankruptcy auction in a Phoenix courtroom.

'NECESSARY STEP'

"We believe this step is necessary in order to best preserve and maximize the value of the club asset for the benefit of the club's creditors and the community of Glendale," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

"(The court proceedings have been) damaging to the club's business and the sooner the club can be extricated from the bankruptcy process, the sooner club personnel can begin to restore the team's vitality and local fan base."

That may be easier said than done. The Reinsdorf group -- which appeared to be the buyer most favoured by the league -- backed out on the belief that the negative publicity surrounding the ongoing saga has further damaged the bankrupt franchise.

The other reported bidder is a group headed by Canadian businessmen under the name Ice Edge.

While the league offer appears to have caught the Balsillie group off guard, the co-chairman of Research In Motion hasn't backed down.

"This obviously comes as a surprise, but we look forward to seeing what the NHL's bid is," Balsillie's spokesman, Bill Walker, told Sun Media last night.

"All we've asked for since we launched our bid was a chance to get into an open auction on a level playing field with other bidders and let the best bid win. That's what the bankruptcy court process was designed to do -- to maximize value for creditors."

The league's latest tactic is curious given the reported financial struggles of a number of its franchises.

However, it is clear the NHL does not plan to operate the franchise for long. Daly said if the bid is successful, the league will handle the process of finding a credible buyer to keep the team in the desert.

"We intend to conduct an orderly sale process to a third party outside of bankruptcy," Daly said.

Court proceedings resume next week to rule on several issues including Balsillie's filing earlier this week urging Judge Baum to overturn the NHL board of governor's vote to unanimously reject him as an owner. Balsillie also has petitioned the court to set the price on a relocation fee to move the team to Hamilton.


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