NHL.com calls the approval of Jerry Reinsdorf's bid for the Phoenix Coyotes "breaking news," but that might just be due to the fact they don't often implement the "Foregone Conclusion" tag on headlines.
The Chicago sports icon was the only bid of the three reviewed by the Board of Governors today that sought to keep the team in Glendale, instead of keeping one skate in Saskatchewan or moving the franchise to Hamilton.
The NHL's been accused of encouraging other bidders to give way to Reinsdorf's offer; and it's not exactly been coy in cheerleading the bid.
From the NHL:
There were three applicant groups that were interviewed by the Executive Committee and considered by the Board. One was Jim Balsillie's. The second was a group headed by Anthony LeBlanc, involving Mr. LeBlanc, Keith McCullough, Todd Jordan and Daryl Jones. And the third group, headed by Jerry Reinsdorf, included as well Tony Tavares and John Kaites.
"After interviewing all of the applications, the Executive Committee brought forward recommendations to the full Board of Governors.
"Mr. Reinsdorf's application was unanimously approved by all those Board members present and voting, subject to the League's completion of its due diligence and review of the final transaction. In Mr. Balsillie's case, it was the unanimous vote of all members present and voting that his application not be approved. With respect to the LeBlanc group, it was determined that, at this stage, since they've only recently begun the process, the application was incomplete and could not yet be acted on by the Board. However, the Executive Committee reported favorably on the LeBlanc group's interview and endorsed the group's continued efforts to complete a bid to purchase the franchise."
So Reinsdorf gets the green light, the Phoenix/Canada boys get a "maybe" and Balsillie gets shut down. Coming up, the BlackBerry billionaire's group responds to this latest drama in the Coyotes saga.
From Balsillie and the Make It Seven campaign, a statement:
TORONTO (July 29, 2009) - PSE Sports and Entertainment, the company which represents Jim Balsillie's $212.5 million bid to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario, issued a statement today regarding the NHL's position on Mr. Balsillie's ownership application.
"We do not think that Jim Balsillie's qualification to be an NHL owner is an issue in this case given his 2006 approval as an NHL owner," said PSE spokesman Bill Walker.
"We note that the bankruptcy court Judge Hon. Redfield T. Baum ruled in his June 15 decision that:
'Absent some showing by the NHL that there have been material changes in PSE's circumstances since 2006, it appears to the court that the NHL can not object or withhold its consent to PSE becoming the controlling owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.'
Walker noted that Judge Baum cited the legal precedent of Memorial Coliseum v. National Football League (known as the "Raiders" case) as showing that ‘a right of approval or disapproval or a discretionary power... must be exercised within the parameters of the duty of good faith.'
"Presumably the onus will be on the NHL to demonstrate a material change in PSE's circumstances, although no such change was raised with us today," Walker said. "Beyond that we have confidence in, and respect for, Judge Baum and the legal process as this case unfolds."
Interesting tactic, but one that reads like a rerun of arguments made in the bankruptcy hearing.
Is there still a chance that this thing goes to a relocation auction, where Balsillie will be back in play? Sure. Reinsdorf is asking for seemingly a miraculous number of concessions from the city, which is taking political heat for considering them.
But the NHL, with this ruling, reaffirmed its commitment to keeping the franchise in Glendale and keeping the Southern Ontario market for its own future development -- and Balsillie away from it.
Would love to know what changed over three years for Jimmy B. in the eyes of the NHL.