The National Hockey League on Tuesday filed an objection with a U.S. bankruptcy court after being ordered to turn over documentation relating to its purported discussions with Jerry Reinsdorf about his interest in buying the Phoenix Coyotes.
In court documents, the NHL argued that premature disclosure of any expressions of interest in the team could be harmful and said the motion should be denied.
"Pending the determination of who is in rightful control of the debtors, there is no justification for the efforts of the debtors' former principal, [majority team owner] Jerry Moyes, to harass the league with such discovery that may prove wholly unnecessary," the NHL wrote.
"Premature disclosure of confidential discussions will jeopardize value for the league and all of its member teams, including the Phoenix Coyotes, as well as the team's creditors."
The aim behind the request from Coyotes ownership to reveal details of the talks with Reinsdorf was "to examine the content of [the league's discussions with Reinsdorf] and the potential offer outstanding by Mr. Reinsdorf related to these purported interests," according to court documents.
The NHL was caught by surprise last week by the Coyotes' Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and a $212.5-million US offer from Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie to buy the club on condition he be allowed to relocate it to southern Ontario.
The league is now challenging whether Moyes had the authority to seek bankruptcy protection. Last week, the NHL said in a statement that it removed Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the team.
On Monday, the league argued in court documents that Moyes gave NHL commissioner Gary Bettman an "irrevocable proxy" to control his franchise on Nov. 14 in exchange for $38 million US in league money to stay afloat.
In an effort to block the bid from Balsillie, co-CEO of Waterloo-based BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, the NHL had approached Reinsdorf — the chairman of the NBA's Chicago Bulls and Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox — about buying the team.
The Canadian Press quoted NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly last week as saying that the league's discussions with Reinsdorf were "very far along" and that there was "a letter of intent that [the NHL was] prepared to deliver to Jerry Moyes on Tuesday of this week."
Citing "various expressions of interest," Daly said there are other purchase offers that would keep the team in suburban Glendale.