NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is skeptical of Jim Balsillie's offer to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, saying he isn't sure the BlackBerry boss could gain approval of league owners.
NEW YORK — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is skeptical of Jim Balsillie's offer to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, saying he isn't sure the BlackBerry boss could gain approval of league owners.
The NHL stripped current Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes of the authority to run the club Tuesday after Moyes announced the team had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Balsillie announced a plan to buy the financially troubled team and move it to Canada, where they were the Winnipeg Jets before moving to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season.
"I don't know whether or not he could get approved," Bettman said Wednesday during a discussion of commissioners from the four major U.S. pro sports leagues, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. "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."
Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, said his $212.5 million offer is conditional on the Coyotes relocating to Canada.
The team's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing included the proposed sale of the franchise to PSE Sports & Entertainment, LP.
Bettman said the filing occurred "not because creditors were lurking and seeking redress for not being paid, but because there was an offer apparently from Mr. Balsillie to buy the franchise and move it."
"This is not about whether or not we want a franchise in southern Ontario. This is not about whether or not Mr. Balsillie would make a suitable owner that the owners would approve. This is about the league's rules and the enforceability of our rules," Bettman said.
"Whether or not Mr. Moyes even had the authority to file the bankruptcy petition is something we're going to get into. This is more about the tactic and I think a challenge to league rules than it is about economic condition of the club, which we believe can with new ownership and with the accommodations the city of Glendale is prepared to make, we think can succeed."
Bettman sounded as if the league wouldn't approve a move of the Coyotes right now.
"We generally try to avoid relocating franchises unless you absolutely have to," he said. "We think when a franchise is in trouble, you try and fix the problems. 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."