LAS VEGAS – Gary Bettman isn’t the least bit surprised that Jim Balsillie intends to continue his pursuit of an NHL team.
While the commissioner was happy that a U.S. bankruptcy court prevented Balsillie from buying the Phoenix Coyotes and moving them to Hamilton, he never counted on this week’s ruling deterring the BlackBerry billionaire.
“I’m not surprised (he plans to continue),” Bettman said Wednesday during an NHL awards gala. “This is an ongoing process. It’s not something that I think people should anticipate changing day by day.
“This is a process we’re going through. At the end of the process we hope the right result is reached.”
Bettman reiterated that the league doesn’t believe the Coyotes should ever have been placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy by majority owner Jerry Moyes.
On Monday night, U.S. bankruptcy court judge Redfield T. Baum rejected Balsillie’s bid to buy the money-losing club and move it to southern Ontario. In a 21-page ruling, he said there wasn’t enough time to deal with all the unresolved issues raised by the case.
Balsillie proposed to work with the NHL to find “an appropriate” relocation fee to bring the club north through mediation. The commissioner was reluctant to discuss the possibility of that happening.
“I’m not going to have legal discussion and discuss negotiating posture publicly,” said Bettman. “I don’t think that’s the way to conduct business, especially when we’re here for a celebration.”
The league still believes that Coyotes could have a future in suburban Glendale, Ariz., under a new owner.
Bettman indicated that the court will continue to oversee an auction for the sale of the team. He expects other official bids for the Coyotes to emerge once a timeline for the sale has been established.
In the meantime, he can take some satisfaction from this week’s ruling.
“I think this process still has a bit of a ways to go,” said Bettman. “But the fact is the judge recognized the importance and legality of our rules and procedures.
“I think that was an important step in the right direction.”