Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Court drama in Phoenix

Yes the whole country is supporting Jim Balsillie as he enters a Phoenix courtroom today to try to wrestle control of the most pathetic sport franchise in North America. How do you lose $35 million a year. Well start with an average ticket price of $37. You can get deals where for $40 you get a pair of upper bowl tickets with parking, hot dogs and drinks thrown in. Shane Doan probably comes pick you and drives you to the game. Yes there are not suitors lining up to buy this turkey.

So here is a recap of the battle as I see it:
  • New gets out during the winter that the Coyotes have not been paying their bills and the NHL has stepped in to keep the team operating.
  • At various times during the season Gary Bettman declared that the Coyotes were not in financially trouble at that there were as many as 4 (unnamed) potential buyers.
  • Coyote owner Jerry Moyes and Basillie have been talking since February on how to sell the team the Balsillie bypassing the NHL process since Balsillie's last two attempts failed.
  • They come up with a scheme where the Coyotes file for Chapter 11 bankrupcy and Balsillie immediately makes an offer to buy the team for $212.5 million. That may be $100 million more than its worth but allows Moyes to walk away with money in his pocket.
  • The NHL files documents with the court indicating that ownership had actually transferred to the NHL in November but to protect Moyes from embarrassment it was never publicly disclosed.
  • The city of Glendale cries foul because they have a 30 year lease with the Coyotes and see the bankrupcy filing as a ruse to get out of the lease and relocate.
  • Balsillie goes on the offensive and accuses the NHL of being either opposed to him personally or a team in Southern Ontario.
  • Balsillie works out a deal with the city of Hamilton to bring the Coyotes to Copps Coliseum.
  • Bettman suggests on the weekend that if the Coyotes were to relocate it wouldn't be to Ontario but back to Winnipeg. This is declaration is either intended to generate some competition for Balsillie or to split the Canadian public on relocation.
  • Balsillie suggests that he would keep the team in Phoenix for one more season with financial support from the league.
If the Judge makes a decision today and that it a big if, this dispute will not be resolved. Neither side will likely back down which means more litigation. So what happens to the Coyotes in the interim? Will anyone operate the team?

I hope at the very least someone will be appointed to operate the franchise. If the NHL wins today then they own a hockey team nobody wants. If Moyes/Basillie win then there will be appeals. We are about 4 or 5 weeks away from the Amateur Draft and 7 weeks away from a large number of contracts expiring and free agency. If someone doesn't take over the team then it will likely not be operating next season.

So stay tuned.