Coyote Watch: Why a Balsillie win could be bad for pro sports

Much like Vin Diesel, news is arriving fast and furious in the Phoenix Coyotes' bankruptcy/relocation mess. We'll occasionally collect news and views in our Endangered Species Watch.

The NHL expects the Phoenix Coyotes to remain in Glendale for at least the next three years, which is probably news for the city of Hamilton as it nears an agreement with prospective Coyotes owner Jim Balsillie on an arena deal for the relocated team.

Balsillie was on Hockey Night in Canada for a game of softball this weekend, stating his case before acting like Ron MacLean had asked him for the secret formula for KFC when asked if he and Gary Bettman had conversed over the phone (16:15). Which was odd.

From around the MSM and the blogosphere, here's some news and views on the Coyotes' relocation and bankruptcy.

Moyes Gave Up Control for $38 million [TSN, via Toronto Star].

"NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave the Phoenix Coyotes and owner Jerry Moyes US$38 million of the league's money to help the team maintain operations and as a result holds an 'irrevocable proxy' according to documents filed in an Arizona court, reports the Toronto Star."

Moyes is arguing that the NHL was "only given voting powers on certain matters" with bankruptcy is not included "because it is not a voting matter." So the NHL paid $38 million for control of the team, but not in cases of hasty Chapter 11 and relocation of the franchise. Actually, that sounds about right ...

Whose franchise is it anyway? [Sports Business Journal].

"Bankruptcy experts are divided over whether the bankruptcy court will adhere to the traditional practice of upholding the highest bidder in an effort to make creditors whole, or honor the league's rules, which give it final approval over a potential owner. Paul Rubin, a partner in the bankruptcy group at Herrick, Feinstein, expects the presiding judge to consider everything from the jobs that will be lost in Arizona to the need to reach a quick resolution to allow the NHL to go forward with its scheduling for the 2009-10 season. Ultimately, he expects the judge to side with the league.

"'The wrinkle here, even though this is an unsettled area, is the sale is contingent upon the buyer being able to move the team,' Rubin said. 'The element that seems to go too far is the contingency that the bankruptcy requires the league to accept ownership of the team in a whole new marketing area. It can affect TV marketing, licensing deals ... and the other owners aren't expecting a new competitor in their backyard.'

"Eric Schaffer, a senior bankruptcy partner at the international law firm Reed Smith, represented Fox Sports in the Pittsburgh Penguins bankruptcy and said that 'the league did not get a warm reception from the bankruptcy court' in that case when it argued that it 'would determine whether or not anyone moved or who the owners would be.'"

A tremendously good read from SBJ that spells out the stakes in this court case, which could affect hockey and every other professional sport going forward: "The use of bankruptcy procedures to secure a preferred transfer of ownership may become an option."

Tom Benjamin on Coyote Ugly [Canucks Corner].

"However it works out, it's delightful to watch Bettman squirm. I'm sure he will have to answer some tough questions from the Board of Governors about his handling of the problem. He should have bounced Moyes when the team ran out of money in February and none of this would have happened. Instead he pretended the team was not bankrupt and he opened the door for the game Moyes and Balsillie are playing.

"Furthermore, the entire mess is an embarrassment to the league and to Bettman's southern strategy. An NHL hockey team is bankrupt in one of the league's largest American markets? Didn't the NHL shut down the game for a year to ensure teams like Phoenix could be healthy?"

Tom Benjamin is a man who never saw an opportunity to slam the living crap out of Gary Bettman he didn't take. But he's also a blogger with, as usual, some of the most cutting insight on the issues.

Facebook group rallying funds to bring NHL team to Winnipeg [CBC Sports]

"A new facebook group is trying to raise $50 million in an effort to bring an NHL team to Winnipeg. Creator Ken Morissette wants 100,000 people to join the site - Winnipeg Jets Fan Challenge...Lets help to get them back! - and contribute $500 each. The funds would be used to convince a major investor or corporate supporters to step forward and take the effort to the next level, which would be to secure a team."

Best of luck. And best of luck to, which is trying to keep the team that left Winnipeg but whose potential relocation has inspired Winnipeg to seek a new team. Yeah, our heads are spinning, too.

Growing Hockey in the Desert [Hip Shot]

"The sport of hockey is growing in the desert and the Phoenix Coyotes are a major part of the formula. They are helping to generate new NHL fans and contributing to the growth of new ice rinks in the valley and children's skating programs is a huge part of that contribution. (families are the primary source of new fans, kids that grow up playing the game are the fans of the future). We have a ways to go with our media coverage for sure. But our marketing has won several ADDy awards in the past 2 years (we do need to get them on regular local prime time more), we've got the grass roots thing covered and the guys like me too.  Winning would take care of some of the transplant conversion and sure as heck get more butts in seats regardless of the midweek commute."

A Coyotes blog makes the case for the franchise to remain in Arizona. And yes, as we've argued many times before, winning would have kept this all from happening. 

Why NOBODY should be Rooting for Balsillie and Moyes [Five For Howling]

"When the Nordiques and Jets were moved, a large part of the reason was that the exchange rate between the US and Canada was absolutely brutal. You could flip around the profit sharing equations if that was still the case today. If the CAD took a dive again after Balsillie won, you'd not only see those teams suffering, but even more teams moving. Could teams like Edmonton and Ottawa survive if that happened? Plenty thought some of them could have just a few years ago. It wouldn't just be the Canadian teams hurt though. Any time an owner just didn't want to put any more money into a team, they could just close up shop and sell to whoever wanted to play with it next. Any team outside of Toronto, Montreal and New York would be in jeopardy. The movements of teams in and out of markets would start to look like the route map of a major airline."

FFH is a Coyotes blog and one that's been leading the charge to get the team to stay. There are several strong points in the piece, which is clearly written from the heart. Finally ...

Why Canada Hates Bettman [Jamie Fitzpatrick]

"A league with three teams in California and three in the greater New York area can't justify maintaining one franchise in the most populous region of hockey-mad Canada.

"Bettman supporters will argue that he worked to save the Ottawa Senators not so long ago, proving that his agenda does not discriminate against any country or region.

"Maybe so. But he's losing the public relations battle.

"Balsillie is right about one thing. Southwestern Ontario is an 'unserved' hockey market. As long as Bettman appears contemptuous of its hockey fans, he can expect contempt in return."

Fitzpatrick, who has been blogging at since the Mesozoic Era (or so it would seem), is completely correct when he writes that Southern Ontario and the GTA can support another franchise and are deserving of one. He's also correct that Balsillie's public support will greatly eclipse that of Bettman on this issue.

But Canada hates Gary Bettman because "by consistently rebuffing the Ontario option, commissioner Gary Bettman gives Canadian hockey fans good reason to loathe him"?

And here we thought it was because he happened to be a New Yorker with a funny accent who came from the NBA. And that whole lockout thing. That too.

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