The second day in Arizona court flew into action with Gary Bettman taking the stand and a whole lot of chatter about relocation. After Judge Baum announced yesterday that the auction might not result in any bids taking the Coyotes, liquidation was put on the table as a possible solution.
The day began with Jim Balsillie’s lawyer Jeff Kessler suggesting that this entire process is, for the National Hockey League, all about relocation. He stated that the league’s bid for just one year in Phoenix proves that and went on to say that the league was blocking Jim Balsillie from taking the stand so that the court couldn’t see his “good character.”
Kessler went on to say that the league rejected Balsillie as an owner and didn’t even address the relocation application. Another of Balsillie’s lawyers, Susan Freeman, argued that the NHL is blocking Balsillie’s bid out of spite.
When NHL lawyer Tom Clark began, he stated that relocation for this season is impossible and asked why the ruling needed to be made currently. He also went on to say that the league has never argued that Hamilton isn’t a viable option and noted that any sale of the team must be in the league’s best interest.
Clark went on to explain that Balsillie loves hockey and is a smart businessman, saying that there’s no conspiracy against him but that he didn’t play by the rules. Clark said that the door might still be open if Balsillie made a good faith apology and won over the owners.
Kessler was back at it and stated that the league has provided “no reasonable reason” as to why the Coyotes franchise can’t be moved. He said that the team has a contractual right to sell to Balsillie.
Gary Bettman took to the stand and was questioned by Jerry Moyes’ lawyer on the basis of Balsillie’s alleged acting in “bad faith.” Questioning shifted to ask the commissioner why the league suddenly came through with their own bid on the franchise. Moyes’ lawyer asked Bettman about the statement he made on August 20 that said the NHL had decided as early as June 24 to “be prepared to make a bid” on the Coyotes franchise.
Bettman stated that no decision on a bid had been made by then, explaining that he just wanted to be sure that there were options. There was nothing to Bettman’s agenda other than to inform the Board of Governors as to the issues and the options, the commish alleged.
Kessler stated that Bettman “knew by July 29” what the league was going to do in terms of blocking Balsillie as a bidder. In that the NHL is now considered a bidder in and of itself in the case, Kessler explained that the league shouldn’t have any right to block another bidder in the auction. Bettman explained that the league has no “motive” to profit by owning the Coyotes.
The day concluded with Balsillie’s PSE amending their bid to include $50 million flat to Glendale with no deduction to be paid upon relocation. Should the city accept, the overall bid by Balsillie on the team would be $192.5 million meaning the city would get more than the capped damages already in the claim. The city lawyer said that Glendale would respond to the new offer by Wednesday.
With much more to come in the process and nothing decided as of yet, this case looks like it could go for quite a while longer before any viable resolution is discovered. Thank God we’ll have some actual hockey to look forward to soon!
Posted by Jordan Richardson.