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Balsillie says he's 'a step closer' to moving Coyotes to Canada

PHOENIX - Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie says he's"one step closer" to bringing the Phoenix Coyotes to southernOntario.

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

Judge Redfield T. Baum indicated the NHL is entitled to arelocation fee, and if Balsillie balks at the fee as too high, hisbid would evaporate.

Balsillie, however, painted the issue in a positive light in amessage posted at makeitseven.ca, the Web site he has developed forhis effort to move the team.

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

The NHL has told Baum that it can't come up with a proposed feebecause the number is determined by the league's board of governorsas part of the relocation process. Balsillie has only recentlyapplied to the league to buy and move the team.

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

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

Balsillie is the only bidder for the team, and Baum indicatedTuesday that he is not impressed with the fact that fourprospective buyers after filed preliminary applications with theNHL on a proposed purchase of the Coyotes that would keep the teamin Glendale.

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

Balsillie's attorney Susan Freeman has contended the league isdragging its feet in acting on the applications to buy and move theteam, a position the judge questioned severely during Tuesday's6 1/2-hour hearing.

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

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

Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May5 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, theCoyotes can be a viable franchise. The team has lost more than $300million since it moved from Winnipeg in 1996.

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

Balsillie and Moyes want the franchise sold and moved withoutthe 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 willingto fund the Coyotes in Glendale for the coming season while theownership issue is worked out.

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