The National Hockey League says it will have a firm local offer for the Phoenix Coyotes by the end of this week.
"The NHL remains confident that a local bidder will put in a firm bid on or before the June 26th deadline set forth in its proposed bid proceedures," the league said in a fillng in an Arizona bankruptcy court today.
The league also disclosed that it expects to have a decision on Jim Balsillie's bid to buy the club and move it to Hamilton by the end of July.
However, the NHL wants to stick to its plan to hold an auction for the club in September that would only be open to bidders who plan to keep the club in Phoenix. If that auction does not yeild sufficient bids, the NHL wants to hold a second auction for relocation. Balsillie has asked the court to hold just one auction, for all types of bids.
In its filing, the NHL has rejected Balsillie's plan, saying it is only beneficial for him. The league also said an auction for local bidders only will protect the value of the franchise.
"The economic viability of any professional sports team is severely damaged by public disclosure and suggestion that the club may relocate," the league said.
It also took a shot at Balsillie and current majority owner Jerry Moyes for pushing the Coyotes into Chapter 11 protection.
"Indeed, the damage already done to the value of the club as a result of the bankruptcy filing and announcement of a potential relocation has been substantial," the league said.
The NHL said the city of Glendale, a Phoenix suburb where the Coyotes play, would be severly damaged by relocation.
"This is an important factor to the NHL and to every professional sports league because the need for capital and municipal support is a constant fact of life in professional sports, as "state-of-the-art" facilities age and need to be replaced or renovated."
The league said its board of governors plans to interview Balsillie soon about his bid to relocate the club. The board is expected to question him about his two previous attempts to buy and move clubs, the filing noted.
The NHL has said that it has four potential offers for the Coyotes all of whom would keep the club in Phoenix. The league has not provided any details but the most likely offer is expected to come from Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls. The league has said that an offer of $120-million (all currency U.S.) would be enough to cover creditors. Balsillie has offered $212.5-million.
The NHL has said Balsillie's offer does not include payments that would be triggered if the club were to relocate. Those payments include relocation fees to the NHL and lease termination fees to the city of Glendale. Balsillie's bid also includes up to $22-million in payments to Wayne Gretzky, the head coach and part owner, the league has pointed out..
The Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 on May 5.
Judge Redfield T. Baum is holding a hearing today on the auction issue.