Head coach Wayne Gretzky was a no-show today when the Phoenix Coyotes began training camp for the 2009-10 season, due to the on-going financial status of the club that has been tied up in court.
According to the Canadian Press, assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson will run the training camp on an interim basis.
"We certainly miss him but things have to play out in court with all the legal stuff," said Samuelsson. "Until we sort that out, we've really got to go forward a day at a time here.
"We had a Plan A and a Plan B going here for awhile," he added. "We're ready."
Gretzky makes $8 million annually, the highest salary of any coach in the NHL. He is also an investor, serving as the Coyotes managing partner.
Court Proceedings Could Decide Coyotes' Fate
The Coyotes are mired in bankruptcy court where a sales auction occurred on over Thursday and Friday with the NHL and Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie fighting for control of the club. The NHL wishes to keep the franchise playing in Glendale, AZ at Jobing.com Arena while Balsillie would relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada where the team would play at Copps Coliseum (see images and details of a proposed renovation plan for the arena)
As part of the court proceedings on Thursday, the court was informed that Gretzky was willing to take a pay cut from $8 million to $2 million annually as part of the Ice Edge LLC bid that was eventually pulled as part of the sales auction process on Thurs. and Fri.
Friday, both the NHL and Balsillie increased their bids for the club that has bled red ink; $60 million alone last year, and have lost $300 million since moving to Glendale in 1996. Balsillie has bid $242.5 million while the NHL has offered $140 million. While the figures seem far apart, based upon how creditors would be paid, the distance is not that great. As reported by Bloomberg News:
Balsillie agreed to guarantee that the city of Glendale, Arizona, which built the Coyotes hockey arena for $180 million, would collect at least $50 million. The NHL agreed to pay almost all creditors in full and guarantee at least $18.3 million to those who won’t be fully repaid, including coach Wayne Gretzky who claims to be owed at least $7.5 million.
The main creditors and company lenders sided that attended Friday’s hearing sided with the NHL’s bid while majority owner Jerry Moyes has sided with Balsillie’s bid.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum has said that he would render a decision before the Coyotes’ season starts. He has also not ruled out a “no sale” decision in which the status quo would remain in place. In that instance, it is assumed that the NHL would continue to work toward selling the team to an investor willing to keep the club in the Phoenix area.
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