The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix! The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix!

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This article was published 16/6/2009 (4765 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix! The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix!

Isn't that just... great?

Jim Balsillie

CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Jim Balsillie

I mean, isn't the NHL's "victory" in an Arizona bankruptcy court kinda like winning the right to defend the Alamo? Isn't the "right" to buy the Coyotes, and keep them in Phoenix, like being awarded the keys to General Motors?

Yes, we know what the NHL won, at least for now: keeping the lucrative southern Ontario market for expansion to themselves. Or, more accurately, keeping that pesky interloper Jim Balsillie out of Hamilton.

But the ruling of Judge Redfield T. Baum does make you wonder about what an astonishing waste of time and money the entire exercise was in the end. After all, Baum noted in his decision that he simply didn't have the time to meet Balsillie's June 29 deadline to purchase the debt-ridden Coyotes for $212.5 million.

There were too many complicated issues for Baum to unravel -- the lease agreement with the city of Glendale, a relocation fee, possible indemnities -- in a matter of days.

Further, Baum ruled that Balsillie didn't have the right to move the Coyotes anywhere over the objections of NHL owners. And Balsillie certainly couldn't move the team to the fertile real estate of southern Ontario. That would be akin to buying a business franchise in a remote market and moving it to "New York City's Times Square" Baum reasoned.

No kidding. That means Balsillie and his squadron of lawyers never had a hope from the drop of the gavel. After all, who wouldn't want to pay $212 million for an NHL franchise, move it to Hamilton, then have the federal and provincial governments kick in $120 million to renovate Copps Coliseum?

Where do I sign?

Still, for some strange reason, there's pockets of reverence for Balsillie's noble (snicker) effort to fulfill his dream (cue soaring music) to at long last deliver a seventh team to Canadian soil. But we're beginning to question just how smart Balsillie actually is -- at least, in what we call common sense terms.

Because what some commentators breathlessly praised at the outset as some sort of legal wizardry -- outwitting that entire collection of snobby, greedy NHL owners, led by the smarmy little commissioner Gary Bettman -- has turned out to be nothing more than a dead-from-the-get-go pursuit of lawyer prosperity.

Baum was not going to allow Balsillie to move the team, especially to Hamilton, as long as the NHL was opposed. End of story. Case closed.

Such a misplay could only be rivalled by Balsillie's other stroke of genius: Selling season tickets in Hamilton BEFORE getting his mitts on the Nashville Predators.

Bravo.

Look, we've got nothing against a guy whose undying dream is to pants commissioner Bettman for all the world to see. But Balsillie's flaunting of NHL rules and procedures -- and trying to bully his way into the league using litigation -- is self-defeating to the point of disbelief. Bettman isn't Balsillie's worst enemy. Balsillie is.

Even now, the BlackBerry billionaire is regrouping, threatening to buy the still-bankrupt Coyotes out of auction in September. Good luck with that, boys.

"The team still has to be sold, and ours is still the only offer on the table," Balsillie's lawyer, Richard Rodier, said at a press conference in Toronto Tuesday, adding, "Defying the laws of economics is like defying the laws of gravity -- it can't be done. The Coyotes aren't the only team in this situation."

So at least Balsillie is right about one thing. The NHL is dead in Phoenix. It's just a matter of time now, regardless of Baum's ruling on Monday. Whoever buys the Coyotes -- and we admit the supposed offers outlined by the NHL seem as legit as Monopoly money -- will move them. Somewhere. Or they'll just take the Yotes behind the barn and put them out of their misery.

So if Chapter 11 was bankruptcy, that means Chapter 12 was this: Balsillie swings and misses, again. The poor folks in Hamilton get the shaft, again. And the NHL, while amassing a mountain of legal bills, gets the glorious proposition of getting to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for at least another season of monumental financial losses.

Sorry, but if that's winning then the Toronto Maple Leafs must be a freaking dynasty.

Can't wait for Chapter 13. It's going to be a page-turner, we're sure.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Randy Turner

Randy Turner
Reporter

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.