The NHL has rejected Jim Balsillie's request for mediation over the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes and his request to open a September auction for the team to all bidders, including those who wish to move the team.
"Our position has been and remains that there is nothing to mediate at this point in time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail yesterday. "It's premature."
This leaves the decision up to Judge Redfield T. Baum, who is expected to hold a hearing on Monday on all of the auction proposals.
Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion, and Coyotes co-owner Jerry Moyes have asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to hold one auction on Sept. 10 rather than two. The NHL has requested an auction for bidders interested in keeping the Coyotes in suburban Glendale, Ariz., with a second auction for all bidders only if the court rules none of the bids in the first auction are acceptable.
The court was also asked to order the NHL to mediate the relocation issues, including a fee that Balsillie has said he is willing to pay if he is successful in buying the Coyotes out of bankruptcy and moving them to Hamilton.
Judge Baum rejected Balsillie's offer of $212.5-million (U.S.) for the Coyotes, saying the June 29 close was too soon to deal with all of the issues. Balsillie renewed that offer with the court on Thursday, asking that the NHL be ordered to decide on his relocation application by July 31 and to be ready to change its schedule so the Coyotes could open the season in Hamilton in October if he is the winning bidder.
Daly said the NHL will continue to work on bids from those willing to keep the team in Glendale. The NHL has said there are four potential bids but has not filed any details with the court. A possible bid from Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of baseball's Chicago White Sox and basketball's Chicago Bulls, is supposed to be close to being filed with the court.
"We have always advocated a two-stage sale/auction process, with efforts being made to sell the club locally first," Daly said in his e-mail. "That continues to be our position."
As for Balsillie's relocation application, Daly indicated there may be too many steps in the league's process for it to be dealt with by July 31. He said it has not even been determined if the NHL's board of governors is willing to waive its Jan. 1 deadline for relocation applications in the same calendar year. Balsillie applied for relocation on June 1 after the judge ordered him to do so.