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Greg Wyshynski

Balsillie vs. NHL for Coyotes; Bettman says Ice Edge drops bid

Greg Wyshynski
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Tonight's breaking news that Ice Edge has dropped its bid in this week's auction for the Phoenix Coyotes, according to a court filing by Gary Bettman, is only a stunner due to the timing of it.

We're basically 48 hours away from the definitive moments of this bankruptcy dispute (until the flurry of appeals), and Ice Edge was a third-party candidate in this election -- more Ralph Nader than Ross Perot at this point.

The group, led by CEO Daryl Jones and former Research in Motion executive Anthony LeBlanc, had a $150 million offer for the Coyotes whose fate rested with the negotiation of a more favorable lease with the City of Glendale. Five For Howling reported last week that the bidders where making progress with the city; perhaps time ran out. Then again, perhaps the money just never materialized in time, either.

There were more objections from unsecured creditors to the Ice Edge bid than the NHL and Balsillie bids. In a court filing today, the NHLPA objected to the Ice Edge bid because it "appears to attempt an assignment of the Standard Player Contracts ("SPC") without an assumption of the CBA" and that the bid's current course would have rendered "Ice Edge incapable of icing a team in the 2009-2010 season absent successfully negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA."

(If we had watched a few seasons of "Boston Legal" on DVD before reading that, we might be able to tell you what it all means; just know that the NHLPA didn't offer the same objections to the NHL or Balsillie.)

Reporter Brahm Resnik is tweeting like a mad man on this. Ice Edge appears out for now, which really isn't going to sit well with The Great One or hockey fans in Saskatoon. Unless, of course, they're back in the picture if the NHL wins the auction, much like the former bidders in Jerry Reinsdorf group could be, if the scuttlebutt pans out.

So we get the NHL vs. Balsillie showdown free and clear of any bronze medalists, which is what we all wanted, isn't it?

Phoenix Business Journal offers a pre-Ice Edge duck out look at this week's auction and the big questions facing Judge Baum.

The Bettman filing today, by the way, is an essential piece of evidence in the case, detailing the timeline of the NHL's decision to make a bid of its own. Balsillie's team argues that the NHL's rejection of his ownership and its subsequent bid for the Coyotes are an inescapable conflict of interest.

Bettman testifies that he received approval from the Board of Governors on June 24 to make a bid for Phoenix if no "qualified bidders" had emerged. On July 29, the NHL approved Reinsdorf, quasi-approved Ice Edge and rejected Balsillie. Bettman, from today's filing:

"After reviewing the ownership applications, the Board was reminded by me of the possibility of a contingent bid by the NHL, although it seemed at the time that such a bid might not be required because of the progress being made by both the Reinsdorf Group and the Ice Edge Group. However, the possibility that the League might make a contingent bid was not discussed or considered in any way in connection with the determination of Mr. Balsillie's and PSE's request for approval as possible owners."

In other words: The NHL's potential bid wasn't a consideration at the time of Balsillie's rejection because two other viable bids were in play. Bettman concludes:

"If either of the Reinsdorf or Ice Edge Groups had made a Qualified Bid by August 25, it is unlikely that the NHL would have made a bid at that time."

The NHL can never spell out that Reinsdorf's was a puppet bid, but we all know it was. If Reinsdorf was in play, the NHL itself wasn't; so there's no way to connect the NHL's later bid with Balsillie's rejection in July.

Check back here Wednesday for a piece we're running that deals with the collateral damage in this mess: The Coyotes fans.

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