Hamilton council approves NHL lease for Copps


On Wednesday evening, Hamilton City Council unanimously approved an option on a 20-year lease on Jim Balsillie’s use of Copps Coliseum for an NHL franchise. Balsillie hopes the use Hamilton’s lease option as an additional bargaining chip, to show a judge in Phoenix that his offer of US$212.5 million and a US$17 million bridge loan is best for the Coyotes’ creditors.

The NHL is trying to block the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes by Balsillie, arguing that it has been in control of the franchise since November 2008. What actually happens to the franchise – if the judge agrees to the purchase – is anyone’s guess. The NHL is adamant that they will remain in the southwest United States.

A decision on who owns the team should come on May 19. The agreement for Copps will expire if Balsillie is unable to purchase the Coyotes by October.

Prior to the council meeting, Balsillie had issued the following press release:

Mayor Eisenberger and Council,

I’m writing to you about my longstanding commitment to bringing an NHL franchise to Hamilton.

Hamilton has always been and remains now my first choice for locating a potential seventh NHL franchise in Canada. I am not considering any other site locations at this time.

Our commitment is to bring the NHL to Hamilton and to draw to Hamilton thousands of supportive Southern Ontario hockey fans, in the best un-served hockey market in the world.

We think it’s good for Hamilton’s local economy, good for the NHL, and the best location for this proposed franchise. But most importantly we think this would be great for the Hamilton community, for a wide range of businesses, organizations and important causes that would be supported and stimulated by an NHL franchise in Hamilton. That has always been my view.

We look forward to Hamilton City Council passing a motion tonight at its Council meeting to approve an option for a 20-year lease at Copps Coliseum. It would mark the beginning of a strong and lasting partnership with the City to bring the NHL to Hamilton.