Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Want A Monkey Wrench?

So the NHL has now asked Judge Redfield T. Baum to throw out Jim Balsillie's application for the September 10 auction for the Phoenix Coyotes based on the fact that the NHL's Board of Governors unanimously voted him down as an NHL owner. The NHL submitted a 26-page document that included statements from Bruins' owner Jeremy Jacobs and Wild owner Craig Leipold outlining how allowing Balsillie to participate in the auction would undermine the NHL's Board of Governors' decision if Balsillie were to win the auction. Basically, the NHL has told the court that they have no right to overturn their decision, and that decision came from Balsillie's previous involvement with both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators.

Look, I get what the NHL is doing here. They are eliminating a fairly large shark when it comes to this auction's pool of buyers. Balsillie's original offer is still more than anyone else has offered, and it is obscenely more than what Jerry Reinsdorf tabled in his offer. Clearly, Jim Balsillie has the financial means to make owning the Coyotes a reality when it goes to auction.

So here's the kicker: why doesn't the NHL buy the Coyotes?

There is precedence for this move. If you remember, Major League Baseball was essentially forced into buying and running the Montreal Expos in 2002. Because the Minnesota Twins won a court injunction, they could not be contracted. If the Expos were to be contracted, MLB's 162-game schedule wouldn't work with 29 teams, so MLB was forced to keep the Expos alive. Of course, the Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005, but the fact that the league ran the team for two seasons before selling it to a buyer shows that this might be the NHL's best course of action in keeping Balsillie from owning it.

Think about it for a second. If the NHL claims it makes billions of dollars per year, it can financially make a bid that Balsillie may not be able to match or beat. Not only that, but I'm quite certain that the NHL would have the NHLPA's backing since it would keep all the people involved with the franchise in Phoenix with guaranteed jobs for next season and the foreseeable future. And once the NHL had control of the Coyotes, it could essentially turn around and sell the team to Reinsdorf - exactly what the NHL wants.

Is this underhanded? Sure, some might say it is. Balsillie would probably raise a serious complaint with Judge Baum over this action. But if the 29 owners banded together as a single incorporated entity, they would essentially be no different than the other groups of investors who want in on the auction. And what they are doing is no different than what Jim Balsillie tried to do when he pulled the carpet out from under the NHL.

If the NHL's request to Judge Baum is denied, what could the judge do if 29 already-approved NHL investors stepped up to the plate with an outstanding offer? Jerry Moyes will get his money and shut up, Jim Balsillie would be eliminated from the picture, and the Coyotes would remain in Phoenix under Jerry Reinsdorf.

I'm never going to suggest that this is going to happen. I'm simply throwing an idea out there. I find it intriguing, and it could happen in reality. It's just that I don't think it ever will.

Your thoughts on this end-around proposed by me? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

mtjaws said...

Like the Expos, I think your idea could work. I've been following the Coyotes for the past few years, and sure hope they stay in PHX. All these delays aren't making it easy, but hopefully the NHL's case is what wins out. Moyes and Balsillie don't care about rules, and are looking for any loophole they can try to buy. Moyes sure has enough money for his lawyers, but not for the team that he bought. And if the team ends up moving, Glendale deserves to get its penalty money for losing the team's lease.

What a mess.