Canadian Billionaire Offers To Keep Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona Desert

Martin AverySenior Writer IMay 16, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 05:  Jim Balsillie Chairman and Co-CEO of Research In Motion and new owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses with his Blackberry in a press conference announcing the purchase of the team after the first period at Mellon Arena on October 5, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's bid to take over the Phoenix Coyotes and move the NHL team to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, changed into an offer to keep the team in Arizona. His lawyer, Richard Rodier is emerging as a key player in the saga of the Arizona hockey team.

Balsillie is willing to own the Coyotes and let them stay in Phoenix for another season—with some provisos, according to the Toronto Star, if he is allowed to purchase the team through bankruptcy proceedings, according to documents filed late Friday night.

Coyotes fans in Phoenix hope a rally today will show their team ain't dead yet, according to the Globe and Mail, but owner Jerry Moyes continued to do everything in his power to kill it. Moyes says twelve years in the desert have shown Phoenix isn't a viable market.

Meanwhile, the NHL is taking direct aim at Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, calling his bid an attack on the league.

"Lawyers for Balsillie's PSE Sports and Entertainment painted the company as accommodating businessmen in pleading with judge Redfield Baum to consider the $212.5 million (U.S.) offer on its merits," the Toronto Star reported.

"Calling themselves "good faith" purchasers caught between conflicting stories over who actually controls the financially troubled franchise."

The Star story quoted an affidavit by Richard Rodier, Balsillie's long-time lawyer and now senior vice-president of PSE.

Rodier says Balsillie is willing to make a deal with the NHL, which may become necessary should the judge side with the NHL in the bankruptcy proceedings.

Both Moyes and the NHL claim they are in control of the Coyotes. Rodier went to great lengths in his affidavit to distance himself and Balsillie from any possible Moyes' wrongdoing, according to Kevin McGran, a sports reporter with the Star.

Rodier suggested to the judge that Balsillie would have no problem being accepted as an owner by the league's board of governors since he already passed once, when he attempted to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I did not `engineer' the bankruptcy case," Rodier told the Star. "I explained to (the Moyes camp) that the only way I could see out of Phoenix, given that the team was already bankrupt and also due to the long-term lease with the arena with no provision allowing early termination, was for some sort of bankruptcy proceeding."