Through the 5 Hole

September 9, 2009 10:18 PM

Coyotes faceoff heating up

Call it a Duel in the Valley of Sun, the fight to see whether the Phoenix Coyotes remain in Arizona or wind up in Hamilton, Ontario.

On the one side we have the NHL, led by commissioner Gary Bettman, who wants the Coyotes to keep playing at the Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

On the other is Jim Balsillie, whose Research In Motion company makes the popular Blackberry -- and has made him a fortune.

If money talks, and if judge Redfield T. Baum allows Balsillie to bid for the Coyotes in bankruptcy court, the league might have an impossible chance to compete.

Balsillie is willing to pay $242.5 million for the franchise, with several million to take care of the arena lease and with the stipulation he can move the team to Canada. The league is offering to pay $140 million to keep the team in Glendale while seeking a local buyer.

Balsillie gained some traction when a group named Ice Edge dropped out of the bidding. Its offer was only $150 million and was predicated on getting a new lease.

The league's board of governors voted 26-0, with three abstentions, to keep Balsillie from becoming an owner, so whichever way the bankruptcy judge rules will be extremely meaningful in terms of how much authority a league and its commissioner can wield.

Both sides are prepared to appeal.

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