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Moyes assails NHL over Coyotes' operations

Jerry Moyes leaves U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, Arizona September 23, 2009.

Joshua Lott/Reuters/Joshua Lott/Reuters

The former owner of the Phoenix Coyotes has lashed out at the NHL in court for trying to make him cover all the losses the league has incurred since buying the club out of bankruptcy nearly three years ago.

Arizona businessman Jerry Moyes is demanding that the NHL explain why it didn't move the Coyotes to Winnipeg, Quebec City or Seattle instead of keeping the team in Phoenix and piling up losses.

"The NHL wants to recoup from [Moyes]wide-ranging damages including the losses for every single day the NHL operates the Phoenix Coyotes and the difference between any future sale price of the team and the amount the NHL paid to purchase the team in bankruptcy," Moyes argues in documents filed in an Arizona bankruptcy court this week. "The NHL is attempting to make Jerry Moyes and his wife an insurance policy for the bad decisions that the league has made since it purchased the team."

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Moyes wants the league to turn over information relating to its decision to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg last year, arguing the NHL should have moved the Coyotes instead since Phoenix was losing more money.

In court filings, the NHL calls Moyes's demands irrelevant. The league argues the issues have nothing to do with a legal battle it is waging with Moyes over his botched attempt to sell the Coyotes to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie in May of 2009. Balsillie planned to move the team to Hamilton, something the NHL fought bitterly. The league ended up buying the Coyotes out of bankruptcy protection in November of 2009 for $140-million (all currency U.S.). It has been running the club ever since, with the help of $50-million from the City of Glendale, which owns the arena where the team plays.

The NHL sued Moyes in 2010, alleging he had violated a deal to keep the team in Phoenix for seven years after he acquired control of the Coyotes in 2006. The NHL is seeking more than $70-million in damages and alleges Moyes secretly negotiated the proposed sale to Balsillie and then lied about it. Moyes has denied any wrongdoing. A trial date has not been set.

The fate of the Coyotes, currently in the thick of the NHL playoffs, remains uncertain. The NHL has said that it will consider moving the franchise if a local buyer cannot be found. The league is believed to be seeking $170-million for the team. So far there have been no takers.

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