Gary Bettman would prefer to see the Phoenix Coyotes move to Winnipeg than Hamilton, according to court documents filed as part of the NHL team’s bankruptcy case.
A lawyer who works for Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes says the NHL commissioner told him that last month after he contacted the league to let it know that there was a Canadian purchaser who was interested in moving the team to southern Ontario.
In an affidavit filed Friday, Earl Scudder says that Bettman informed him Hamilton wasn’t an ideal destination because Copps Coliseum is over 30 years old, saying “if the team did return to Canada, it would be to Winnipeg.”
The franchise moved to Phoenix from the Manitoba capital in 1996.
Scudder’s affidavit also says that Bettman said the only way a team would end up in southern Ontario is through expansion.
His sworn statement was one of several documents submitted to the Arizona bankruptcy court by Moyes’s lawyers on Friday. In one filing, the NHL is accused of looking out for its own interests rather than those of the creditors who would be paid if Jim Balsillie’s US$212.5-million bid to purchase the team was allowed to go through.
The document also raises the question of what the league would do if the court rules that it has control of the team, saying: “After all, it is beyond dispute that Coyotes Hockey is insolvent.”
The parties will be in a Phoenix courtroom for a bankruptcy hearing on Tuesday.
A central argument from the NHL is that Moyes gave up the right to place the team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection when he received financing to keep the Coyotes afloat in November. That notion is disputed numerous times throughout the latest filings.
“I have not given up control of the Phoenix Coyotes to the NHL, and I have never discussed giving up control of the Phoenix Coyotes to the NHL,” Moyes said in an affidavit.
One document claims that his sole intention is to sell the Coyotes to the highest bidder.
It also accuses the league of getting in the way of that process by refusing to disclose details of a reported offer from Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.