Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, formally filed a relocation application with the NHL on Monday, another step in his quest to move the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, Ont.
"I'm 100 percent prepared to play by all the league's rules and follow all its by-laws," Balsillie told Newsday on Monday. "This [relocation application] is just another compliance aspect. To the best of our knowledge, we've complied with all the rules."
This is Balsillie's third attempt to buy an NHL team and relocate it to Hamilton in the last five years -- he made a bid for the then-bankrupt Penguins in 2004, but rescinded it when he could not commit to keeping the team in Pittsburgh; he also tried to buy the Nashville Predators in 2007 but was thwarted by the league. The Coyotes are in debt and in turmoil, after principal owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy a month ago in an attempt to turn the team over to Balsillie for $212.5 million rather than go through the league.
Since then, the dispute between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Balsillie, who angered the commissioner during the attempted Predators sale by signing up season-ticket subscribers in Hamilton before any transaction had been completed, has seemingly become a personal feud, with Bettman seeking to keep Balsillie out of the league at all costs.
"I don't want to make this sound personal about Jim, because Jim's not the issue," Bettman said on Saturday in Detroit, before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. "But at the end of the day the owners, if they get to that point, are going to have to review him as a potential partner in the league. Whether or not they have questions about how he might be as a partner is something they'll have to raise with him at the time."
The Phoenix bankruptcy court is due to rule whether the league or Moyes is in charge of the Coyotes on June 9. The NHL says it has a tentative agreement with a group that includes White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to keep the team in Arizona. Balsillie is hopefuly not to be shut out yet again, despite seemingly angering Bettman and the league's owners by circumventing the buying process with bankruptcy.
"I assure you I tried to find a front door to bring this process forward. I couldn't find a front door," he said. "This was the only way."