Judge closes on relocation fee for Phoenix Coyotes

The judge ruling on Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's plans to move the Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise to southern Ontario is expected to authorise a relocation fee of US$100 million.

The judge ruling on Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's plans to move the Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise to southern Ontario is expected to authorise a relocation fee of US$100 million.

Judge Redfield Baum is tasked with setting a fair relocation fee which the NHL could charge Balsillie, but the issue is complicated; the NHL would prefer to set a price high enough that Balsillie withdraws his offer and the league can sell the team to a new owner who would keep it in Arizona.

"We believe the judge is extremely well informed," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "And my hope is he comes to the right conclusion."

Baum said that a precedent was set by a case involving the Oakland Raiders in the 1980s, indicating that the NHL owns the Ontario location that would be the Coyotes' new home, giving the league the right to impose a relocation fee. He also added that he would like the two parties to agree that fee between them, but added: "I'm not holding my breath on that one."

The Coyotes have lost at least US$30 million in each of the last three seasons.