Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Battle of Glendale

The bankruptcy court battle over the Phoenix Coyotes took a couple of very interesting turns on Tuesday...none of which made the ownership struggle much clearer.

It was deadline day for submitting formal bids to buy the team ahead of the September 10th auction - and the NHL started things off by joining the bidding war. To make things even more interesting, Jerry Reinsdorf's group, the league-backed choice to take over the Coyotes, backed out as a potential buyer hours later.

Reinsdorf's group simply said they couldn't meet the deadline to submit an offer, and complained about "an organized publicity effort designed to provide negative and misleading information to interested parties."

They also cited the fact that they couldn't work out a good enough lease deal for Jobing.com Arena with the city of Glendale.

One of two things happened here - either the league was tipped off about Reinsdorf pulling out and figured they had no choice but to bid, or the two sides are using some Balsillie-esque tactics to get around the bankruptcy court auction.

Scenario one: the NHL was tipped off.

The NHL must have known about the possibility that Reinsdorf's group wouldn't be going through with their bid, and so they were forced to step in to make sure Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie didn't have an easy road to buying the team. Imagine if after Reinsdorf's bid went by the wayside, Ice Edge Holdings and Balsillie emerged as the only two formal bids heading into the auction. That would be an easy win for J-Bal over both Ice Edge and the NHL, and the league would be left scrambling.

Scenario two: its all part of a plan.

What the NHL intends to do is buy the team and then sell it to someone else, outside of the bankruptcy court process. Wouldn't it be sneaky if they won the auction and then sold the team to the Jerry Reinsdorf group, who pulled out of the bidding war because they knew they had a better shot at winning this way?

And what better a way to beat Jim Balsillie than by using some sneaky moves like this - the same type of thing most of us wouldn't be surprised to see Balsillie trying to pull.

The NHL says it took action "to maximize the likelihood that the club ultimately will be sold to an acceptable purchaser who is committed to operating the franchise in Glendale."

When the NHL uses language like this, it's pretty easy to see they are getting involved to make damn sure that Balsillie doesn't end up with the team.

Who could they possibly be talking about when using phrases like an "acceptable purchaser?"

As for Ice Edge Holdings, they're the group made up of both Canadian and American investors that have proposed playing up to five Coyotes regular season "home" games and one playoff game every other series (assuming they get that far) in places like Saskatoon or Halifax.

Their bid, much like the Reinsdorf bid, was believed to be in the area of $160-million. No word yet on what the NHL plans to bid.

Who do you think should get the team? Is the NHL turning a blind eye to the fact that Arizona is a failed hockey market, simply because they don't want Jim Balsillie to own a team?

Let me know how you feel!

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