Bettman takes dim view of bid for Coyotes

Wed May 6, 2009 7:07pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie appeared to be heading for another showdown on Wednesday over the BlackBerry billionaire's brash attempt to purchase the cash-strapped Phoenix Coyotes.

A day after the Coyotes filed bankruptcy papers and Balsillie tabled a $212.5 million offer to buy the struggling franchise and move it to Southern Ontario, Bettman was throwing up roadblocks.

Speaking on a panel on the "The Future of Sports" hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Bettman said he doubted Balsillie would gain approval from league owners to purchase the team and that the league planned to keep the floundering franchise in Phoenix.

According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Coyotes are expected to lose between $25 and $35-million this year and have lost more than $200-million since 2001.

The Coyotes have survived with the help of the league's revenue-sharing scheme and more recently on advances and loans from the NHL.

"We believe (it) can, with new ownership and with the accommodation that the city of Glendale is prepared to make, can be a success," said Bettman. "We generally avoid relocating a franchise unless you absolutely have to. When a franchise is in trouble you try to fix the problems.

"We fix the problems we don't run out on cities."

It marks the third time Balsillie and Bettman have clashed over the Research in Motion (RIM) chief's efforts to acquire an NHL franchise.   Continued...

<p>National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media following the NHL's Board of Governors meeting in Montreal, January 24, 2009. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>