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US judge rejects sale of Coyotes

THE National Hockey League's Coyotes are staying in Phoenix after a bankruptcy judge on Monday rejected the proposed sale of the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would have moved it to Hamilton, Ontario.

Judge Redfield T Baum issued a 21-page ruling, concluding that the June 29 deadline imposed by Balsillie did not allow enough time to resolve the many issues raised in the complex case.

"Simply put, the court does not think there is sufficient time (14 days) for all of these issues to be fairly presented to the court given that deadline," he wrote.

The ruling is a victory for the NHL, which had argued Balsillie was using the US Bankruptcy Court to attempt to circumvent the league's rules over who owns teams and where they are located.

"We're pleased the court recognized the validity of league rules and our ability to apply them in a reasonable fashion," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement on Monday night. "We will turn our attention now toward helping to facilitate an orderly sales process that will produce a local buyer who is committed to making the Coyotes' franchise viable and successful in the Phoenix-Glendale area."

But Balsillie, who has failed in two other bids to buy NHL teams, refused to concede defeat, saying he wants to work with the league and move the franchise.

"We look forward to hearing from the NHL soon on its view of our relocation application and an appropriate relocation fee, so as to allow the court to determine if that fee is reasonable," Balsillie spokesman Bill Walker said. "We still think there is enough time for the NHL to approve Mr Balsillie's application and move the team to Hamilton by September."

Baum shot down the claim by Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and Balsillie that failure to allow the team, over the objection of the NHL, to move would violate antitrust law.

The decision is also a win for the city of Glendale, which had spent US$183 million to build an arena for the Coyotes and had contended the franchise could not use bankruptcy to evade its lease.

Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 5, proposing to sell the team to Balsillie for US$212.5 million, provided the franchise moved to Hamilton.



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