September 11, 2009
(Ed. Note: Judge Redfield T. Baum looks nothing like this. But my wife is inexplicably a fan of the obscure Chevy Chase film "Nothing But Trouble," in which proud Canadian Aykroyd played the judge on the right. The film's only real virtue is a musical number by Digital Underground.)
The NHL and Jim Balsillie's team are having it out in court again today, with Gary Bettman taking the stand and generally behaving as one would expect Gary Bettman to behave under cross-examination.
The news, as Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports, is that Judge Redfield T. Baum said he would not determine ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes today, and asked the Balsillie team to wipe away its self-imposed deadline of Sept. 21 in order for Baum to make a "thoughtful decision" without a ticking clock.
Both CBC Sports and the Globe & Mail are running live chats on today's court drama, with the CBC's heavy on viewer comments and the Globe's heavy on expert analysis. We recommend those interested in the case check out the chat with Globe's Paul Waldie and David Shoalts, who are offering detailed thoughts on the arguments in today's hearing. Waldie, for example, breaks down one of the NHL's main points today thusly:
Here is the crux of the league argument as I understand it. If Judge Baum approves Balsillie's bid, that means Balsillie gets the right to an NHL hockey franchise. But he also assumes the NHL's constitution and bylaws, which come with that right to own a franchise. So, he has to abide by the constitution and bylaws which, the NHL argues, gives the league the power to decide relocation.
Again, this is what the NHL has been arguing since the process started: Balsillie conspired to bankrupt a franchise in order to purchase it and have the courts appoint him as owner over the League's rejection; then, he was going to further circumvent NHL bylaws by having a court allow him to relocate the franchise to the destination of his choosing. Even if Balsillie's team successfully argues that he should own the team, it's still an NHL team. How many rules can Jimmy Bals use the courts to bend?
As we mentioned in the Puck Headlines, check out the Twittering of Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, The Yotes Diva, Larry Halliday, Brahm Resnik, CBC's Jeff Marek and Canadian Press's Chris Johnston for great coverage of this. As nearly all of them wrote today, one of the NHL lawyers claimed that the "number of NHL fans in the US exceeds the entire population of Canada." We're guessing they did, in fact, include the Yukon in that tally.
This has been a marathon process that, as Baum indicated today, isn't near completion even after he rules. It's frustrating for hockey, and devastating for the Coyotes and their fans. But imagine how we'll all feel if the end result of this hearing puts us back at square one?