Another interesting, but not surprising, twist in the "Battle of Glendale" took place Wednesday in an Arizona courtroom - Judge Redfield T. Baum did exactly what he said he might do back in September and rejected the only two bids on the table for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Baum rejected Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's $242.5-million attempt to move the team to Hamilton because the relocation issue was likely a can of worms he didn't want to be associated with opening.
Meanwhile, he ruled that the NHL's bid of $140-million doesn't work because it's not the NHL's place to decide which of the Phoenix creditors would get paid (the NHL wasn't going to pay majority owner Jerry Moyes and former coach/part owner Wayne Gretzky).
Judge Baum denied Balsillie's bid "with prejudice" in his 28-page ruling, meaning he is done and can't come back with a different bid. The NHL, on the other hand, will be allowed to come back with an improved offer. As Baum said:
"In hockey parlance, the court is passing the puck to the NHL, who can decide to take another shot at the sale net or it can pass off the puck."
So here's the part where I give you my opinion on the matter:
I'm not surprised by this decision to shut Jim Balsillie out, but I don't think anyone is. The precedent that would have been set would hurt professional sports on the continent and I bet judge Baum was sick of this case and couldn't stand the thought of another year of appeals on the matter had he given J-Bal the team (even though he eventually offered to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for one more season, which is all the league had guaranteed).
Also, while it was a long, drawn out process, I think it was a good form of therapy for Balsillie and the NHL. Balsillie came pretty darn close to finding a back door into ownership and in all likelihood, this isn't the last we'll hear from of the Blackberry billionaire.
Having said that, the next time he tries to "Make it Seven," I think he'll try to do it the right way, because if he learned anything from this experience it should be that he'll probably be successful if he follows the rules, bows down, and accepts the NHL board of governors as his personal lord and saviour.
I guess for now, even though they don't "legally" own the Coyotes, it'll be the NHL footing the bill for their shortcomings until a "suitable" owner is found.
What a mess!