As expected, Jim Balsillie did not get a last-minute boost from Glendale, Ariz., politicians for his fading hopes to buy and move the Phoenix Coyotes.
Lawyers for the suburban city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, filed a document with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court late Tuesday night affiriming the city's support for the NHL's bid for the Coyotes. The filing followed an in-camera meeting of the Glendale city council to discuss Balsillie's offer of $50-million (all currency U.S.) to break the team's arena lease.
In the public portion of the council meeting, Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes rose to his feet and tried to make a pitch for Balsillie's offer. Mayor Elaine Scruggs ordered him to leave and council went into its private session, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.
Moyes said Glendale has to face up to the possibility the Coyotes will move even if the NHL buys them.
"The city of Glendale would be better off without hockey," Moyes told the Republic. "This team is going to be gone in a year."
Going into Tuesday's meeting, only one councillor was in favour of accepting Balsillie's offer in lieu of damages for breaking the lease with city-owned Jobing.com Arena. Most of the other councillors, who were surveyed by The Republic, said the city should either not register any further opinion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court or maintain its official approval of the NHL's $140-million offer in the court auction for the Coyotes.
Balsillie, the co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion Ltd., offered $242.5-million for the Coyotes but only if he can move the team to Hamilton. His offer jumped that high when he offered the city the $50-million carrot. The NHL has committed only to one more season in Glendale but said its preference is to find a buyer who will not move the team.
Judge Redfield T. Baum also received the formal written bids from both Balsillie and the NHL on Tuesday night in the wake of last Friday's auction. He is expected to pick one of them in the next two weeks. All of the team's major creditors asked the judge to pick the NHL's bid over Balsillie's, despite the $100-million difference, because they feel it will avoid a long legal fight that might delay their payments.
Glendale council discussed Balsillie's offer in what is called an executive session, which is closed to the public. But only councillor Phil Lieberman, who wants to keep the team in Glendale, said the city should grab Balsillie's $50-million.
Lieberman noted it would help pay the city's debt service on the arena, which is about $7-million per year. The city contributed $180-million of the $220-million cost of the arena, which was completed in December, 2003.
"I believe the time is now to take the $50-million and put up with the fact that we will have to continue the debt service on [the arena]" Lieberman told the Republic. "I don't believe the council will put it to a vote. They don't want to take a stand one way or the other that the public can say, 'Why did you do that?' Who are we deciding for? Are we deciding for ourselves or for 253,000 people in Glendale?"
The chaos continued in the Coyotes' on-ice affairs as managing partner and head coach Wayne Gretzky boycotted training camp for the fourth consecutive day. Associate coach Ulf Samuelsson handled the team's bench for its first pre-season game. The Coyotes defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 in a split-squad game in front of a crowd estimated at 2,000 fans at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday night.
Gretzky is staying home until the status of his $8-million-per-year contract, which the NHL will not assume if it wins the bidding, is ironed out.