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One Day in Court–The latest on the Phoenix Coyotes Situation

Let’s take a look at what happened in a Phoenix courtroom this afternoon. (Courtesy of the Canadian Press, read the article here and here is the CBC account)

The National Hockey League says it has been in control of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise since last November and is asking a federal judge to throw out the team’s bankruptcy filing. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes signed documents giving control of the team to the league. Daly says the documents specifically prohibit Moyes from taking the franchise into bankruptcy.

Instant analysis: I don’t know if it was on the radio show, or in one of the many conversations I have been having regarding the issues in Phoenix, but I definitely know that I, at one point, accurately predicted that the NHL would claim to have been in control of the ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes prior to Jerry Moyes filing for Chapter 11. The question is, did Moyes actually sign the document that Bill Daly alleges. If that document can be produced, then I suspect Bettman will win this battle. However, if Bettman was paying the bills, but had a “nudge-nudge” agreement with Moyes that Moyes would publicly still be the owner, and didn’t get a letter signed, then that might be Bettman’s ultimate un-doing.

Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Bettman sent a letter to the other 29 teams, saying that Moyes had surrendered control of the team to the NHL long before Moyes filed for bankruptcy (editor’s note: CBC reports Moyes stopped paying the bills in November 2008).

The immediate question that comes to mind then is why was the NHL continuing with the facade that Moyes was the actual owner of the team? (Note: The answer is because Bettman would rather lie to the public, than admit that the NHL had to take over one of his beloved “southern expansion” franchises.) It is Bettman’s insistence on continuing with the public charade that Moyes was owner from November (when he stopped paying the bills) until May 4 (when the Chapter 11 was filed), that may be the proverbial “smoking gun” that his honour, Judge Redfield T. Baum, (great name), has to take into account when he makes his ruling as to who owns the Coyotes. The judge’s decision is expected on May 19th, but rest assured whoever “loses” will undoubtedly appeal the ruling (as was predicted by bankruptcy attorney Richard Farroh on last night’s Radio Show.)

Stay tuned to for all the latest in this rapidly developing story.