The puck stops here

Jim Balsillie will not appeal the Arizona bankruptcy court decision after losing his bid for the...

Jim Balsillie will not appeal the Arizona bankruptcy court decision after losing his bid for the Coyotoes on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Marcel Cretain)

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Billionaire Jim Balsillie is now 0-for-3 in his attempts to be a National Hockey League owner and Hamilton is oh-for-two decades in its attempts to house an NHL franchise.

And who knows now when any of that is going to change?

That was the sombre reality of the non-decision decision made by U.S. bankruptcy court Judge Redfield T. Baum, who rejected Balsillie's very public bid for the Phoenix Coyotes without prejudice yesterday and also rejected the NHL's bid, leaving it a back-door entrance should it choose to tie up the loose ends of its bid, with which the judge was clearly uncomfortable.

Baum gave the NHL some hope -- and at least control of this situation -- while at the same time striking Balsillie out of the game as a potential purchaser of the bankrupt Coyotes.

"This conclusion effectively is the end for the efforts of PSE (Balsillie's company), Balsillie, (Jerry) Moyes and the Coyotes to force a sale and relocation of the hockey team," Baum wrote in his 31-page ruling. In earlier years, Balsillie had attempted to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, each time with the intent of moving them to Ontario.

To be clear: There is hope for the NHL, not for Balsillie in this case.

In a way, Baum's decision turned out to be a loss of sorts for just about everyone involved -- except maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Balsillie, who wanted desperately to bring a seventh NHL franchise to Canada, his team in his desired location, was badly defeated by the court. Baum left no room for re-entrance here, indicating the best interests of the NHL "can not be adequately protected" under the law had he approved the Balsillie bid.

In a statement, Balsillie said he respected the court's decision and would not appeal.

"Nobody can deny that are we now a big step closer having a seventh NHL team in Canada," Balsillie said. "It doesn't matter who owns the team. When that day comes, I will be the first in line to buy a ticket to the home opener."

In simple language, Balsillie was defeated because the judge felt it necessary to protect the creditors by not awarding the team to him and thus preventing the money from being tied up in litigation -- with the NHL and possibly other parties for a significant period of time.

LEFT AT THE ALTAR

The City of Hamilton, which actually made inroads with the NHL as this process unfolded, is again left at the altar, with no franchise in sight.

The creditors, expecting something to come from this five-month ordeal, lose out for now, as they still await their money.

And the NHL, which has been keeping the Coyotes afloat, having pumped in upwards of $50 million with a new season about to begin, must continue to throw good money after bad to operate this team going nowhere that clearly needs to go somewhere.

"We are pleased that the bankruptcy court has confirmed the league's right to select its owners and the locations of its franchises," said deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, in a statement released last night. Daly then added the league is considering its options with regards to reviving its offer -- which it will do -- and somehow continues to cling to the ludicrous notion of keeping "the Coyotes in Glendale (Ariz.)."

The great incongruity of Baum's decision to reject the NHL bid yesterday is that he ruled the league couldn't arbitrarily determine which creditors got paid and which ones didn't.

The irony is all this: Less than a week after Wayne Gretzky's controversial resignation as coach of the Coyotes, the league was basically taken to task by the judge for not including Gretzky and former owner Moyes as creditors in their offer to purchase.

Somewhere Gretzky has to be laughing.

But for now, there is almost no reason to laugh.

Balsillie is out. Hamilton is again in waiting. The Coyotes have no owners and few ticket buyers.

And a second team in Southern Ontario, which makes terrific sense to everybody but the NHL and the Maple Leafs, remains a good idea, as the courts would say, with prejudice.

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos