A potential local buyer has emerged to give Jim Balsillie some competition in his attempt to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton.
A group headed by Coyotes minority owner John Breslow has presented the NHL with a bid to buy the financially moribund team from Jerry Moyes and keep it in suburban Glendale. Breslow, whose primary residence is in Las Vegas, will not give interviews on the matter according to his lawyer, Scott Cohen, but he is a "huge hockey fan" who wants to "work with the NHL and the city" to prevent the team from being sold to Balsillie and moved.
"He is 100-per-cent not interested in moving the team," Cohen said. "He is interested in co-operating with the NHL and the city to keep the team in Glendale."
Cohen said, "I believe the proposal has already been sent to the NHL but I do not know if it meets the new parameters set by the court [on Tuesday]" He would not divulge any details of the offer.
No one from the NHL could immediately be reached for comment.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum ordered lawyers for Moyes and Balsillie to change some of the terms for an auction of the Coyotes that will use Balsillie's conditional $212.5-million (all currency U.S.) offer as a starting bid. Bids first have to be approved by the NHL before they can be accepted.
The new rules have not yet been formally drawn up by the court, so Cohen said the Breslow offer cannot yet be considered an official one.
Cohen would not say who else is in the group, nor would he say if Wayne Gretzky, another minority owner of the Coyotes and the current head coach, was involved in the bid.
"I can't comment if The Great One is involved," Cohen said.
Breslow, who owns 2 per cent of the team, is the executive director of Coyotes Charities. Cohen says he is such a big fan of hockey he travels regularly with the team to its games around the NHL.
According to The Arizona Republic, Breslow was a Republican candidate for governor in his native state of Nebraska in 1998 and was once the state auditor. Three years ago, he sold his welding business for $260-million (all currency U.S.), the Republic reported.
Last week, sources told The Globe and Mail the letter of intent to buy the Coyotes the NHL said it had from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was attached to a plan to move the team to Las Vegas in two years with the league's blessing.
Cohen said Reinsdorf is not involved in Breslow's group despite his connection to Las Vegas.
Breslow has filed a statement with the bankruptcy court supporting the NHL's effort to stop the sale of the Coyotes to Balsillie, whose offer is conditional on the team being moved to Hamilton. The league asked the court to keep that statement confidential because it may embarrass the Coyotes and hinder efforts to sell the team.
While there was no immediate ruling on that matter, the NHL did win a motion to keep the details of Reinsdorf's letter of intent confidential. Judge Baum ruled that since an open auction for the team will be held, the Reinsdorf letter is not relevant at this point. If Reinsdorf wants to make a bid, he can do so, the judge said, and Moyes and his lawyers can see the details of his bid at that time.
The judge also sent Moyes and the NHL to mediation on the issue of who controls the team, saying it was almost irrelevant because both sides want to sell the team.
Judge Baum also scheduled a hearing on June 22 to hear arguments and probably decide if the team can be moved by a new owner.
With files from Paul Waldie