Remember when the Jets left Winnipeg for Phoenix and everyone said, "Real smart! Putting a hockey team in the desert!" Yeah, they're probably on the way back to Canada with their tail between their legs.
The Phoenix Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday and their reorganization plan includes a sale to noted rich guy Jim Balsillie, who wants to give Canada its seventh hockey team back. There might be one small hitch in the plan, however. No one told the NHL front office. A league official said they are "investigating the circumstances surrounding the petition, including the propriety of its filing" and formally stripped current team owner Jerry Moyes from "all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the club." In other words—"You don't talk now, Jerry."
Balsillie—who is co-CEO of the company that invented the Blackberry—has tried twice before to buy an NHL team and move it to Canada. But he started sending out press releases—and lobbying fans—about his plan to take the Coyotes to Southern Ontario, before the league even knew that the bankruptcy filing has happened. It seems the NHL may be looking to fight the whole thing, perhaps even Phoenix's very right to file Chapter 11 with approval. It might have something to do with the $30 million or so that the league reportedly gave the Coyotes to stay in business. And that Gary Bettman doesn't like people who think they can run his league better than he can. It's obvious that the great Arizona hockey experiment has failed, but Bettman might be too proud to admit it.
There's also the other issue of "Southern Ontario" being a vague and somewhat scary term. What part of Southern Ontario is ready and able to accept a major sports franchise? Hamilton? London? Guelph? Any location they choose would likely be too close to Detroit, Buffalo or (most especially) Toronto, for the existing teams comfort. The Maple Leafs certainly don't want to share their very lucrative turf. Of course, if the only alternative is Phoenix they could end up just about anywhere and still be better off.
Say, what's Winnipeg up to these days?
Phoenix Coyotes file for Bankruptcy, NHL Unaware of Terms? [Rovell]
The Brantford Coyotes — Gary Bettman's worst nightmare [National Post]
Balsillie faces tough legal battle [CBC]
Balsillie's power play puts NHL on edge [Globe and Mail]
Balsillie's offer shows he's back with a vengeance [Globe and Mail]
Balsillie makes offer to buy Coyotes [AP]
Coyotes file for Chapter 11; Balsillie bids to move them to Ontario [Puck Daddy]