Balsillie closer to owning Coyotes

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie says he's "one step closer" to bringing the Phoenix Coyotes to southern Ontario.

Balsillie made the statement on his Web site Wednesday, a day after a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on his bid to buy the Coyotes and move them over the objections of the NHL.

Judge Redfield T. Baum indicated the NHL is entitled to a relocation fee, and if Balsillie balks at the fee as too high, his bid would evaporate.

Balsillie, however, painted the issue in a positive light in a message posted at, the Web site he has developed for his effort to move the team.

"However it works out, the issue of a relocation fee, while a new development, does move us one step closer to bringing the Coyotes to Hamilton," Balsillie said.

The NHL has told Baum that it can't come up with a proposed fee because the number is determined by the league's board of governors as part of the relocation process. Balsillie has only recently applied to the league to buy and move the team.

Hamilton is part of territory claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres.

The judge, though, said he might force the league to comply by agreeing to Balsillie's timetable for a June 22 auction of the club.

Balsillie is the only bidder for the team, and Baum indicated Tuesday that he is not impressed with the fact that four prospective buyers after filed preliminary applications with the NHL on a proposed purchase of the Coyotes that would keep the team in Glendale.

"This old judge isn't all that excited about expressions of interest," Baum said.

Balsillie's attorney Susan Freeman has contended the league is dragging its feet in acting on the applications to buy and move the team, a position the judge questioned severely during Tuesday's 6½-hour hearing.

Baum also said he had a hard time buying the argument that the league was opposing the move out of personal spite for Balsillie, who has failed in previous efforts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

However, the judge did say he got a good laugh out of the brief supporting that claim that quoted from an episode of "Seinfeld."

Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 5 with a plan to sell the team to Balsillie for $212.5 million, contingent on moving the franchise to Hamilton.

The NHL says that with better management and a winning team, the Coyotes can be a viable franchise. The team has lost more than $300 million since it moved from Winnipeg in 1996.

The league contends that the consent document signed by Moyes is for a team only to play in Glendale, and that the NHL's rules and regulations must be followed to transfer ownership and move the franchise.

Balsillie and Moyes want the franchise sold and moved without the NHL's approval.

Balsillie says the deal must be completed by the end of June. The league wants the sale in early September and says it is willing to fund the Coyotes in Glendale for the coming season while the ownership issue is worked out.