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The mother of the family that owns the Vancouver Canucks made a pitch to buy the Phoenix Coyotes for her husband this year, U.S. court filings reveal.

Elisa Aquilini offered to buy the Coyotes a couple of months before the club filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors so that her husband, Luigi, could own an NHL team, according to documents filed in an Arizona bankruptcy court.

The couple met with Earl Scudder, a Phoenix lawyer who represents Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes. In the filing, Scudder said the Aquilinis were interested in buying the Coyotes because the Canucks had "done so well that Luigi wanted to have a team that he could own."

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The Aquilini family took control of the Canucks in 2006 and the ownership is divided between Elisa and the couple's three sons, Roberto, Francesco, and Paolo. Luigi is not an owner of the Canucks.

In the filing, Scudder said the NHL would not have approved Elisa owning a stake in two clubs, so the couple discussed putting the Coyotes ownership into the hands of another family member. In the end, no offer was made.

Francesco confirmed his parents' interest but "it didn't work out." He added that "there was some concern [about]a husband and wife owning two different teams."

The Aquilinis were among more than a dozen potential buyers of the Coyotes, Scudder added. Others included movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer, who backed out at the $200-million (all currency U.S.) asking price for the Coyotes; oil tycoon Max Chambers, who Scudder said was more interested in buying an NFL team; the Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings of the NBA; and former Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett, who offered to help find a Canadian buyer for the Coyotes.

Despite all the approaches, only three bids have emerged for the Coyotes - from Canadian BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie, Ice Edge Holdings and the NHL.

The details of the various offers were included in a stack of documents filed this week in preparation of a hearing today on whether Balsillie can remain a bidder. He has offered $212.5-million for the Coyotes, far more than the others, and wants to move the club to Hamilton. The NHL has opposed relocating the club and argues Balsillie cannot be considered a "qualified bidder" because league governors rejected him as an owner in July. Balsillie's lawyers argue the bankruptcy court can override the NHL because the league is acting in bad faith.

The court filings also included details about a proposal by Balsillie's lawyer, Richard Rodier, to compensate Glendale, the Phoenix suburb where the Coyotes play, for losing the club. Jeff Shumway, the club's former chief executive officer, said in one filing that Rodier suggested paying off the city or moving the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL to Glendale. The Bulldogs play in Copps Coliseum, where Balsillie hopes to locate the Coyotes.

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Rodier told Shumway "that one option might be to negotiate with the City of Glendale and write them a cheque for moving the team as compensation," the filing alleged. "He believed that it may be possible to bring, I believe, the Hamilton [Bulldogs]is what they're called, an AHL team, to Phoenix to play in the arena to replace the Coyotes."

Shumway said he did not pursue the ideas. Rodier declined comment.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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