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Cold Hard Rants

An Idiot’s Guide to the Day in the Phoenix Courtroom

Written by yours truly, the Chief Justice of Idiots. For those who can handle complete sentences, check out  David Shoalts’s article from the Globe and Mail

For simplicity sake, here are the important points to note from today’s court proceedings in Balsillie v. Bettman:

  • Judge Baum sent both sides to mediation in the hope that they can reach agreement on who owns and controls the Coyotes
  • The Judge expects an agreement on ownership will have been reached by May 27, as that is when Judge Baum scheduled an update on the mediation proceedings. Ominously, his honour said, “you guys are going to mediate this, or I’m going to rule on it.”
  • The secondary matter, if Mr. Balsillie is within his rights to purchase the team and relocate them to Hamilton, will be adjudicated on June 22. Of course, if the NHL ends up in control of the franchise, and presumably they will ask that the bankruptcy be disqualified, that date will become moot.
  • All briefs related to the legalities surrounding the relocation of the franchise need to be submitted on June 12.
  • The NHL requested that the relocation issue be handled immediately in court today–his honour refused.
  • The Phoenix lawyer for Jim Balsillie, Susan Freeman, agreed to the Judge’s request that Mr. Balsillie file with the NHL an official request for relocation.
  • Both sides pressed his honour for a quick decision, as they were in agreement that the outcome must be determined by June 29 as a later date would cause tremendous hardship to the well being of the franchise, where ever they may reside come September 2009.

Instant analysis: Call me a pessimist if you must, but I have the strangest hunch that the mediation ordered by the Judge may not have the positive outcome that Judge Baum is hoping for. Maybe it’s the obvious animosity between the chief protagonists, Bettman and Balsillie, or maybe it’s the public acrimony between everyone involved, but I just don’t see them coming to a decision that doesn’t involve the banging of a Judge’s gavel.

It looks like the first hurdle that Team Balsillie has to overcome will be the ownership question, and that will be decided May 27. After that, Balsillie still needs the Judge to rule against the NHL’s relocation provisions, which even if it happens, will undoubtedly be appealed by the NHL.

Given that both sides targetted June 29 as a date when this issue needs to be resolved by, I think a lot will need to happen in the next 6 weeks for that date to be met. If Balsille proves successful during the first two acts of this melodrama, and the NHL appeals as I expect would happen, could we be faced with the situation of the NHL having to put the Coyotes franchise into hiatus for one year?

Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives.