Bettman skeptical Balsillie’s Offer will be Approved
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expressed doubt that Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie can convince league owners to allow him to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes.
On Tuesday, Balsillie made a $212.5-million dollar offer to purchase the ailing NHL franchise, on the condition that he can move the team to Southern Ontario.
The offer has not impressed Bettman, who has clashed with Balsillie in the past over his previous attempts to purchase an NHL franchise.
“I don’t know whether or not he could get approved,” Bettman said Wednesday during a meeting of commissioners from the four major professional sports leagues. “That’s, as I said, something I don’t get a vote on. If in fact it becomes an issue for board consideration, the board of governors of the league will make that decision.”
The NHL stripped current Coyotes owner, Jerry Moyes, of his duties running the day-to-day operations of the franchise after he announced Tuesday that the team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
According to Bettman, the bankruptcy filing did not occur because creditors wanted to be paid, but because of Balsillie’s offer to buy and move the team.
The league will investigate whether Moyes had the authority to file the bankruptcy petition, Bettman said, before adding that the league would prefer to find new local owners rather than relocate the franchise.
“We think when a franchise is in trouble, you try and fix the problems,” Bettman said. “That’s what we did in Pittsburgh and Ottawa and Buffalo prior to our work stoppage. That’s what we did when the perception was that five out of the six Canadian franchises around the turn of the century were in trouble. We fixed the problems. We don’t run out on cities.”
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Instant analysis: Well, we knew this would get messy, and rest assured the messiness has just begun. Bettman and the NHL were totally blindsided by yesterday’s moves by Balsillie and Moyes, and are simply entering damage control mode. What is occurring now, is posturing by both sides. Much like the lockout proved to be Napoleon’s Waterloo for Bob Goodenow, I strongly suspect the Coyotes/Balsillie disaster will prove to be Bettman’s. Commissioner Bettman has hitched his wagon to the NHL in “untraditional marketplaces” and as one of those marketplaces is proving to be an abject and absolute failure with the franchise potentially returning to Canada, Bettman is doing all he can to salvage his remaining reputation. If I was a betting man, and I will task Illegal Curve’s Ari Baum Cohen in providing the odds, I would suggest this is the final hurrah for Commissioner Bettman as commissioner in the NHL. As the political and public pressure grows, (both the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister of Canada have chimed in) Commissioner Bettman may have no alternative than to sell the team to Balsillie and begin the slow ride into yonder.
Rest assured, we will have more on this story later today and as developments warrant. Tune into the Illegalcurve.com Radio Show tonight from 8 PM – 10 PM on 92.9 KICK FM or by clicking the link in the top right corner for much more on this rapidly developing story. We are attempting to get comments from Jim Balsillie and/or his proxy, but thus far our calls and emails have gone unanswered.