Thursday, May 7, 2009

Does Jim Balsillie Now Have "Hand"?

1) The word out of Phoenix is that Jim (Blackberry) Balsillie has made (yet another) offer to buy/move an NHL team. This time he is making no bones about his intentions. Unlike Pittsburgh, then Nashville, where he at first stated he intended to try to keep those troubled franchises in their current locations. This time, seeing an opportunity that is to his advantage, Balsillie swooped in to try to force the hands of the NHL/Gary Bettman who has in the past spurned offers from the Canadian billionaire. This time he is clearly on record of his intentions to move the Coyotes to southern Ontario.

2) Although the NHL is fighting the move it might become mute once all the dust settles/ the bankruptcy hearings takes place. We're told Gary Bettman was livid with Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes' move to declare bankruptcy . Evidently he did it without the NHL's knowledge or consent. Moyes has been courted by Balsillie for some time, but until last week we're told he has not agreed to sit down with him for fear of losing the support he has thus far received from the league. After trying to try to either redo their lease with the city of Glendale or find other investors to buy part or all the team failed, Moyes decided he had little other options to try to recoup the money he invested for the team. The final carrot offered by Balsillie was agreeing to provide $17 million in financing to allow the franchise to keep going in advance of the sale.

3) A few hours after Moyes announced Tuesday that the team had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—a move that could allow the cash-strapped franchise to be sold and moved to Ontario—the NHL said it would represent the team in bankruptcy court. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, "We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the club". The team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing included the proposed sale of the franchise to PSE Sports & Entertainment, LP,(Balsillie) which would move the franchise to southern Ontario.

4) From what we have learned/been told this will all come to a head rather quickly. Since the NHL is on the clock (with schedules released in mid July) the decision has to be reached before June 30th. After that the team will either have to play in Arizona as lame ducks, or temporarily be mothballed for a season (not a good option!) Therefore our sources within the NHL and in Phoenix believe that Gary Bettman has little option here. Unless a magical investor with deep pockets surfaces in Arizona very soon, the only viable alternative is Balsillie. Jim, in Seinfeld parlance, indeed has 'hand'!

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