Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix Coyotes Toronto Bound? Balsillie Bids Again for Toronto Area NHL Team

Earlier today RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie once again made a bid to bring a second NHL team to Southern Ontario. There had been speculation for some time that the Phoenix Coyotes were in trouble and today, after the team filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, Balsillie pounced and made an offer of $212.5 million (USD) to buy the Wayne Gretzky coached club conditional on league approval to move it to the city of his choosing.

For hockey fans and even casual observers we feel like we've seen this story before. But this time there are new circumstances and Balsillie has decided to launch a web site - makeitseven.ca - to try to get fans in the Toronto area to rally for his cause.

A few minutes ago I connected with Balsillie's spokesperson, Bill Walker, to find out more about the bid and whether Toronto, Vaughan, Hamilton or some other Southern Ontario city will be the Coyotes next destination. Here's our Q&A:

You announced an offer for the Phoenix Coyotes today. Failing previously in an attempt to acquire the Predators, what is different this time around that will allow the bid to be successful?

Every situation is unique and we're hopeful and excited about this opportunity to bring a seventh NHL franchise to Canada. We hope fans share our enthusiasm and will log on to www.makeitseven.ca to let us know they support bringing a team to Southern Ontario.

What lessons were learned from the Predators experience?

We're looking forward now. We're working with a new set of circumstances and individuals with the Coyotes organization to do what is best for the franchise, and what is best for the NHL and for hockey fans. We wouldn't compare it -- it's a unique situation. We think the Southern Ontario hockey market is under-served for a population of more than 7 million and that we have the kind of great hockey fans who will support an NHL team in Southern Ontario.

You have announced the intention to re-locate the Coyotes to Southern Ontario. What cities are being considered?

We haven't ruled anything in or anything out. We're literally in the first few hours of this process. We needed to get this offer to purchase done first, or else all the other questions would be moot points. Now we can move forward with the very exciting work that needs to be done to make this a reality. The issue of a location is one piece of the puzzle. We'll let our fans know the latest developments at www.makeitseven.ca and also let you know as soon as we reach the next stage in the process.

What are the plans for www.makeitseven.ca. How do you anticipate this web site will help your efforts to re-locate the team?

We've already signed up more than 2,000 hockey fans in the first 100 minutes of the site's life. We think that's just the tip of the iceberg and an indication of the really extraordinary fan base the NHL has in Southern Ontario -- the kind of fan base that www.makeitseven.ca will demonstrate to the NHL and hockey markets across North America is deserving of an NHL franchise. We've always believed we have the best hockey fans in the world in Southern Ontario and that's what makes this so exciting.

Do you expect there to be any other bids made for the Coyotes?

We don't have any information about that. We know about our own bid and we know that we will work as hard as we can to make it a reality and to not only land this NHL franchise in Southern Ontario but reward the fans who support us with a Stanley Cup one day. That's the dream.

Is it your expectation to have a team in place in Southern Ontario for the start of the 2009/10 season?

No expectations at this point. Our expectation for today was to officially make our bid proposal and to announce it publicly. That's a pretty good day for us. Tomorrow, we get right back to work. As soon as we know more about some of these important questions we'll let you know, and let our fans know via the website www.makeitseven.ca.

By what date do you expect to have resolution on whether this offer and relocation is successful?

We don't have a specific time frame in mind today. Once again, we will let you know when we can be more specific. What we can tell you today is our bid is in place, we've begun this exciting project to bring an NHL hockey team to Southern Ontario, so stay tuned -- there's much more to come.

Do you expect strong resistance from the NHL and other NHL owners?

Once again we don't want to get into a predictions game. Every circumstance is different, every set of facts are unique in a given situation. Our North American economy is different today. So we'll just take this one step at a time and we'll listen -- listen to fans on our website, listen to hockey people we want to talk to, people in the Southern Ontario communities, to hockey fans. We're getting input from everyone about what it takes to make this work, so we can move this forward.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just that we'd appreciate hockey fans registering at www.makeitseven.ca and as soon as this brand new site has the functionality in place, we'll be letting people know by email when they can begin to leave their comments and wishes on the site to demonstrate their support or give is their ideas. This is a grassroots movement in many ways and we hope to hear from people all across Canada about what hockey means to this country, its place in our culture and our lives, and the support that exists here for the game at all levels.

Photo from the Phoenix Coyotes web site


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