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Coyote Ugly: An Enlightening Sample of Today's Hearing

Mark RitterSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2009

LAS VEGAS - APRIL 06:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference discussing the 2009 NHL Awards at the Ghostbar at the Palms Casino Resort April 6, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2009 NHL Awards will be held at the Palms on June 18, 2009.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

Clearly, every NHL fan with a pulse is patiently awaiting word from the courtroom battle for the Phoenix Coyotes. TSN is featuring a live Blog and so far there have been some very enlightening statements, most notably, those made by Judge T. Baum, NHL lawyer Tony Clark and Jim Balsillie's lawyers, Jeff Kessler and Susan Freeman.

During the proceedings Clark has stated that “Any sale must adequately protect the league's interest...The NHL's consent is a huge interest” Further, Clark goes on to says of the veto, “On the veto: Why would we (NHL) protect one team at the expense of 29 others? The last thing the NHL wants is to own any team. It's a last resort to help a team survive”.

Interesting then, that the NHL currently does have a bid on the table for an NHL team that clearly has long-term stability issues, isn’t it? Especially when, as recently as last week, besides the Balsillie bid, there were two other offers on the table, Jerry Reinsdorf and the Ice Edge group—both have since been revoked—then out of nowhere the NHL pulls out a bid? Sounds like blocking a bid to me?

Clark also stated that, “There is no conspiracy against Balsillie. If Balsillie wants to know why he’s been rebuffed, he needs to look in the mirror. He has brought this on himself. Clark further states, “To own a team you need to be wealthy and love hockey. Balsillie has both. But you also have to play by the rules—Balsillie hasn't. If he expresses an honest regret, humility and apologizes, maybe he can get 16 owners to give him another chance."

Ohhh, so that’s what this whole crooked attempt is about—keeping Balsillie out of the secret hand shaking club that is the NHL and its Board of Governors is all about (As if we didn't already know). The NHL, its cronies, and more importantly, Gary Bettman, want Jim Balsillie to come down to the NHL offices on his hands and knees, tail between his legs and beg the collective bunch of spoiled brats for an opportunity to play? Get bent Bettman and Co.! Simply put, that’s not going to happen, you're dreaming!

Clark’s statement reiterates many onlookers beliefs that the NHL is not acting in the best interest of the NHL, the creditors, or the city of Glendale. Fact is, the NHL is looking out for number one and, in the process, they are trying to send the message that if you can’t play nice, you won’t play at all.

Essentially, the NHL never saw Balsillie coming. Sure, he back-doored the NHL, went around their by-laws and, without breaking “The Law,” he has made a very good case for relocation of the Coyotes and for himself as an owner.

Sound childish to you? You betcha! This whole thing has been a di%k measuring competition from day one. Trouble is, Bettman thinks an inch is a foot, and as such, he is being badly out-measured by Balsillie. I mean seriously, your gonna have a di%k measuring competition with a guy named “Balsillie”?

For their part, Jim Balsillie’s lawyer Jeff Kessler contends that, “This process has always been about relocation and that the league (NHL) realizes it, which is why they will only commit to Glendale for 1 year."

Essentially, the NHL knows the Coyotes are no longer viable, they are just unwilling to admit it and, furthermore, they are doing everything in their power to block Balsillie from moving the team to Hamilton, a location that the NHL contends is a viable, if not a great option.

Another one of Balsillie’s lawyers, Susan Freeman, said of the situation, “The NHL can't be involved in the decision because of its position as a bidder. Freeman also said the NHL's motivation is "spite" and that the NHL is "blocking something unreasonably."

I would have to agree with her sentiments 150 percent. Clearly, the NHL is not doing what is right for the fans, the Phoenix Coyotes, the creditors or for the NHL.

Judge T. Baum, seemingly starting to see the NHL for what it is—a self absorbed bunch of double-talking cowboys—said of the Coyote’s history, “With 15 years in Phoenix, the financial record is not pretty and Reinsdorf and Ice Edge were 'just hanging around'."

In rebuttal, NHL lawyer Tony Clark said, “They're still around. They want to see what happens here. If your honor doesn't approve either sale, take our management control team and see what happens."

Yeah, that’s what Judge T. Baum wants to do, accept a bid that is so inferior that many creditors will not be compensated, including Wayne Gretzky. And, just how realistic would it be to accept the Ice Edge bid when they want to play five games in Saskatoon? Further, the real issue is, are the Coyote’s a viable, profitable NHL team if it remains in Phoenix? If not, by not re-locating all the NHL is doing is delaying the inevitable, which is both counterproductive and foolish.

Balsillie lawyer, Jeff Kessler said of the NHL’s blocking efforts, “You haven't heard any reasonable reason why the Coyotes can't be moved and the NHL can't just say they don't want to admit someone. The Coyotes have the contractual right to sell to Balsillie and ask that a relocation application be considered. We're knocking on the door and you have the key. He'll get along with the other owners as well as they currently get along.”

Exactly! Balsillie has never been given the common courtesy of a chance. The NHL talks all this crap about Balsillie’s lack of character but they have never given Balsillie a fair shake. Fact is, the NHL’s stand against Balsillie has been both self-serving and hurtful to the League and it’s 29 other current owners.

It’s a “Gimme” that no matter who wins the bid for the Coyote’s that we fans are libel to go through this whole Pony show in a years time, and for what?

As it stands now, Judge T. Baum has stated that he will need more time than the September 14th deadline initiated by Jim Balsillie to make a decision. Therefore, if Balsillie still wants to pursue the Coyote’s franchise, he will have to remove his deadline.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is next on the docket. Finally, we will see what Bettman’s side of the story is, only this time it will be under oath!

Big Thanks to TSN for the live feed...Couldn't have written this article without it!

Good luck Mr. Balsillie, there are many fans that are 150 percent behind you, myself included.....

Until next time,

Peace!

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