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Wayne Gretzky agrees to give deposition in Coyotes bankruptcy case

PHOENIX - Wayne Gretzky has agreed to give a deposition in the fight in U.S. Bankruptcy Court over who will own the Phoenix Coyotes and where the team will play.

The former hockey standout, who coaches the team and owns a small share of it, reached an agreement with the city of Glendale over the deposition and the sharing of documents. Gretzky lawyer Jonathan Ibsen said the date and location of the deposition have not been determined.

Gretzky had objected to Glendale's motion to receive his tax records. The documents that will be supplied will be only those that apply to the Coyotes, Ibsen said.

Gretzky's deposition, as well as others in the case and the documents to be shared, can be kept confidential under an agreement reached by all parties in the dispute and presented to Judge Redfield Baum on Thursday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are to give depositions next Wednesday and Thursday in New York.

A group that includes Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of baseball's Chicago White Sox and the NBA's Chicago Bulls, has told the NHL it wants to buy the team for $148 million and keep it in Arizona.

The group has until July 24 to submit its bid to the court. Baum rejected a request by attorneys for team owner Jerry Moyes to subject Reinsdorf and others in the proposed ownership group to depositions.

The judge said he didn't want to make it more difficult for a proposed bidder to make an offer to buy the team. Baum did say he would allow depositions of two members of the Reinsdorf group after any bid is submitted.

A second group, headed by Canadian-born businessman Daryl Jones, has expressed interest in buying the team and keeping it in Arizona.

Jones, head of Connecticut-based Research Edge LLC, told the Hamilton Spectator newspaper this week that "we continue to get more interested the more work we do so far."

He also said he would want Gretzky involved in the venture.

Moyes took the team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 5, to the surprise of the NHL, with a plan to sell the franchise to Canadian BlackBerry magnate Jim Balsillie for US$212.5 million. Balsillie's proposal was contingent on moving the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

Baum rejected Balsillie's proposal, saying the complex issues in the case could not be resolved by the Canadian's self-imposed June 22 deadline.

If no acceptable buyer to keep the team in Glendale is found by the Aug. 5 sale date, bids will be accepted to relocate the franchise. That would reopen the door for Balsillie, who says he still wants the team to play in Hamilton this coming season.

A lawyer for the NHL, Alan Meda, repeated in court on Thursday that the league believes that's impossible.

"It's the NHL's position that it's already too late to move the team for the '09-10 season," Meda said.

The Coyotes, who are being funded by the league until the ownership issue is resolved, released their schedule for the coming season on Wednesday.

The franchise has lost money ever since it moved from Winnipeg in 1996.

Reinsdorf's group is negotiating with the city of Glendale in an attempt to rework the lease for playing in Arena.

The Reinsdorf proposal could leave Moyes with little if any money in the deal because the city contends the money the owner lost was equity, not a loan.

Under the Balsillie deal, Moyes would get about US$100 million of the US$300 million he says he loaned the franchise. Gretzky would get US$22.5 million.


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