NEW YORK – The nearly year-long legal battle between the National Hockey League and former Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes isn’t over yet.
The NHL filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Moyes and his family on Friday, alleging that the trucking magnate violated a number of league agreements when he put the franchise in bankruptcy last year and then attempted to sell it to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie.
The bankruptcy filing caught the NHL by surprise and sparked months of bitter legal manoeuvring that appeared to have ended in November, with Balsillie rejected as an owner and the league in control of the team.
In the new suit, filed in New York City, the NHL said Moyes had agreed when he purchased the team in 2006 not to explore any sale that would move Coyotes out of Phoenix.
The league claims that Moyes’ bankruptcy filing and a related antitrust lawsuit were part of a scheme to evade those terms and pass the team to Balsillie, who wanted to relocate the franchise to Hamilton.
The suit seeks at least US$61 million, including money the NHL spent on legal fees in association with the bankruptcy case, another $20 million it expects to lose this season while operating the Coyotes, and $8 million that the league says is owed to former team coach Wayne Gretzky.
Moyes lawyer, Peter Sorrensen, said the suit had “no basis in law or fact,” and was piling on considering that his client had lost $300 million on the team during his tenure as owner.
“We were disappointed that the NHL chose to go this route,” he said. “We believe that Jerry has put more than his fair share into trying to make this team work here.”
Sorrensen said Moyes would file a counterclaim alleging that the NHL failed to act in good faith while evaluating Balsillie’s offer.
NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansour declined to comment.