The legal hair-pulling and eye-gouging intensified yesterday as the NHL and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie readied for their depositions in the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings.
Lawyers for Balsillie and his PSE Sports & Entertainment filed a motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum asking that its designated representative, Richard Rodier, be allowed to sit in on the depositions given by four NHL officials, including commissioner Gary Bettman.
During weekend discussions between the two camps, the NHL insisted Rodier required court approval before attending the deposition hearings.
Balsillie's lawyers argued Rodier should be included since he is a vice-president and general partner with PSE, the company Balsillie formed in 2006 in his bid to buy an NHL team.
The Toronto-based Rodier has never been a popular figure among NHL powerbrokers.
It was during Balsillie's pursuit of the Nashville Predators in 2007 that Craig Leipold, then the franchise owner, described Rodier as "a rogue lawyer who had no intention of honouring the process of being an NHL owner."
Leipold is now the owner of the Minnesota Wild. He, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are also scheduled to answer questions about the Coyotes' situation beginning tomorrow.
Not to be outdone, the NHL filed a motion of its own yesterday asking the court to order PSE, Balsillie and Rodier to produce "compelling" documents and e-mails by Friday so it can prepare for next week's depositions from Balsillie, Rodier and Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, among others.
The NHL stated, "PSE has drawn a line in the sand, however, with respect to certain types and categories of documents, forcing the NHL to seek the court's assistance in obtaining this discovery."
The league wants documents covering PSE's communications with Moyes and its asset purchase agreement.
The NHL also wants documents "concerning [PSE's]strategy to buy NHL teams through the use of the bankruptcy process" plus its filings made with the Canadian Competition Bureau during its investigation of the NHL's rules on ownership and relocation.
Baum will hold a hearing today to rule on the documents issue.