To the surprise of nobody, the National Hockey League asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to dismiss the Coyotes' Chapter 11 filing in a hearing in Phoenix on Thursday.
Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, spoke after the preliminary hearing, saying the league has been in control of the ailing franchise since November, and that owner Jerry Moyes signed documents giving control of the team to the league.
The documents specifically prohibit Moyes from taking the franchise into bankruptcy, Daly maintained.
Moyes argued that he's still in control of the club.
Judge Redfield T. Baum set May 19 as the date when he will decide who wins the battle over the franchise.
Caught by surprise on Tuesday by the team's Chapter 11 filing and a purchase offer by billionaire Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, the NHL intends to challenge whether Coyotes majority owner Moyes had the authority to seek bankruptcy protection.
Daly alleged in a statement Tuesday that Moyes had been removed "from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the club."
Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, offered $212.5 million US to buy the team on condition that he be allowed to move it to southern Ontario.
Balsillie "makes his own decisions, and he's making a decision that this is the way he wants to get in to the National Hockey League. We don't usually like to pick fights, but we end them," Daly said.
"He's attacked virtually every rule that's in existence in the National Hockey League. I don't think the governors will look kindly to the posture he's taken in this proceeding, that's for sure."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says his preference is to fix the problem in Phoenix rather than relocate the team. Bettman has said he thinks the Coyotes will be successful in Phoenix under new ownership.
The league said it's in discussions with a prospective ownership group that includes Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls.
Moyes's lawyer, Thomas Salerno, said Moyes has lost more than $200 million in equity and more than $100 million in debt with the Coyotes, a team he bought with developer Steve Ellman for $90 million in 2001.