The war in Phoenix has reached a temporary truce as the NHL and Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes will tell a bankruptcy court judge tomorrow they have essentially agreed on how to operate the team.
Judge Redfield T. Baum has scheduled a hearing for a progress report on the mediation he ordered on the issue of who controls the team and how it will operate. The judge said last week the matter was largely irrelevant since both sides want to sell the team, but he was prepared to make a ruling if they could not agree.
The NHL will continue to lend the Coyotes money to keep them operating. The league said in court documents filed this month that it lent the team $13.4-million (all currency U.S.) after advancing it $31.4-million from its portion of revenue sharing.
A source of conflict remains: the timeline for the bankruptcy petition, sale of the team and its possible relocation.
The Moyes camp wants it done quickly so that the winning bidder, be it Jim Balsillie and his $212.5-million offer or anyone else, can move the team by the start of the season this fall and avoid another year of $40-million losses in Phoenix.
The NHL is adamant that is too soon for a move. The league cited its procedures for allowing a franchise to move and logistical problems with the schedule.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed in an e-mail that an agreement is basically in place on operating the team. As for the timeline, Daly wrote: "I guess it will be up to the court to decide."
It could not be confirmed, but it appears the Coyotes will operate as they have since the NHL began giving the team financial assistance last November. The team's executives will handle the day-to-day decisions subject to NHL approval.
Meanwhile, Balsillie is working on the housekeeping aspects of his bid to buy the Coyotes out of bankruptcy and win a court decision allowing him to move them to Hamilton. One week from today, the co-founder of Research In Motion expects to officially apply to the NHL to move the Coyotes, as directed by the court.
In the unlikely event the governors approve the bid, then Judge Baum will not need a hearing on June 22 to decide the relocation issue and the court fight will probably end.
Most likely, though, the governors will reject the bid or reserve a decision, which means Judge Baum will decide if the team can be moved, possibly at the hearing on June 22. There is also an anti-trust lawsuit pending, filed by the Coyotes' owners, which accuses the NHL of acting as a cartel to prevent the Coyotes from doing business by moving to a better market.
The website established to support Balsillie's efforts to move the team to Hamilton has become so popular, its merchandise is being exploited by knockoff artists.
Balsillie's spokesman, Bill Walker, issued a warning yesterday about counterfeit merchandise being sold.