Bankruptcy judge Redfield T. Baum believes the NHL is entitled to a fee for the right to put a team in Hamilton, and that unknown number is crucial to his decision on the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes.
His statement, coming during a combative and entertaining court hearing today in Phoenix, ran counter to arguments made by lawyers for Jim Balsillie that no fee is owed.
Balsillie has bid US$212.5 million for the insolvent Coyotes on the condition he move it to Hamilton -- something the league is against.
The relocation fee would take away money available to pay off creditors and Baum said that if that left them worse off, he would reject Balsillie's bid.
The issue, he said, was determining that amount and he chastised both sides for leaving the matter unresolved.
Baum liked the idea of mediating the matter but was concerned there's not enough time to get it done.
Baum said identifying the fee would perhaps cause Balsillie to either accept it or prompt him to walk away, allowing for a solution without having to solve the more complex issues.
The hearing is continuing in a Phoenix courtroom.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is attending the hearing along with deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and Balsillie's lawyer Richard Rodier ((pictured, thanks CP)) are also attending the hearing. Balsillie is not in attendance.
It's not clear when Baum will make a decision.