Sides still fighting over Coyotes

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Both sides tearing at the carcass of the Phoenix Coyotes are bent on battling it out right to the start of today's two-day auction hearing.

The National Hockey League, in a late submission yesterday that brought the number of filings to almost 1,000 in the case, disputed would-be Hamilton owner Jim Balsillie's claims that it stalled on handing over relevant discovery data about a relocation fee.

It's one of the many issues Judge Redfield T. Baum must wade through to reach the core of the matter -- whether Balsillie's $242.5-million US offer should supercede the NHL's $140 million, knowing the league will not accept the Canadian billionaire as an owner.

The proposed agenda begins today around noon with cross-examination of both sides' experts on relocation and then moving on to arena and debtors issues, with Balsillie and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman scheduled to appear tomorrow. Baum has said he'll make his ruling with the fast-approaching start of the NHL season in mind.

Balsillie has seemed beaten before, but he remains a player, thanks to tweaking his bid with extra millions to ease the contentious lease at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale and saying he would let the team stay put for some or all of the 2009-10 season.

BIDS WITHDRAWN

Two league-supported bids to keep the team in Phoenix permanently have been withdrawn, although Ice Edge Holdings now says it might come back to the table after Baum's ruling.

The NHL will be looking to sell the team to a local buyer should it win and Ice Edge is interested, however, the long-range future of the club in Arizona is in doubt.

Should Balsillie fail, many experts agree this fight has at least set the table for a seventh Canadian team, in Hamilton or the Greater Toronto Area, likely through future expansion.


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