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Dreger: The issues around the relocation talks

Darren Dreger
5/20/2009 6:58:04 PM
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Relocation was discussed at length during Tuesday's bankruptcy hearing for the Coyotes in Phoenix.

After all, relocation is fundamentally the reason Jim Balsillie has interest in buying the financially crippled club.

He wants to move the team to Hamilton.

Yet, as interested as Judge Redfield Baum is in fully investigating relocation as the best source for generating the most money to cover off the team's creditors, let's not confuse that interest with paving the way for Balsillie to move a seventh team into Canada and specificallly, into Copps Coliseum.

Judge Baum wields the power to rule that the Coyotes are, in Bill Daly's words, "a mobile asset." This is a worrisome thought for the NHL and all pro sports in general based on the precedent that would be established.

However, if relocation is determined to be the best vehicle to escalate the value of the franchise, the way to do that is to start an auction. Which begs the question: would interests representing such cities as Winnipeg, Kansas City and Las Vegas be willing to trump Balsillie's bid with a larger offer?

That's what the auction may determine, so if Judge Baum rules in favour of relocation after listening to arguments on June 22, there are no guarantees that either Jim Balsillie or Hamilton will end up with the team.

Relocation without league approval is an obvious circumvention of league rules and some believe this bankruptcy court isn't going to throw the National Hockey League - and, by extension, the entire North American professional sports landscape - into upheaval with such a ruling.

However, the point is Judge Redfield Baum can do that and on several occasions throughout Tuesday's hearing he reminded all parties involved his sole responsibility is to the creditors.

There is no mediation required to determine who controls relocation in this case.

On June 22, it will be up to NHL lawyers to convince the court why relocating the Phoenix Coyotes is a bad idea.

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