It appears a court showdown is in the works between the NHL and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes.

A spokesperson for the league said lawyers for the NHL would appear in federal bankruptcy court in Phoenix on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Spokesperson Frank Brown would not say what action the NHL would take in court - but earlier Wednesday NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said whether team owner Jerry Moyes had the authority to file for bankruptcy is "something we're going to look into."

Bettman wants to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. He expressed doubt on Wednesday that Balsillie could convince league owners to allow him to purchase the team.

Balsillie made a $212.5-million offer on Tuesday to purchase the ailing NHL franchise, on the condition that he can move the team to Southern Ontario.

The offer has not impressed Bettman, who has clashed with Balsillie in the past over his previous attempts to purchase an NHL franchise.

"I don't know whether or not he could get approved," Bettman said Wednesday during a meeting of commissioners from the four major professional sports leagues. "That's, as I said, something I don't get a vote on. If in fact it becomes an issue for board consideration, the board of governors of the league will make that decision."

The NHL stripped current Coyotes owner, Jerry Moyes, of his duties running the day-to-day operations of the franchise after he announced Tuesday that the team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

According to Bettman, the bankruptcy filing did not occur because creditors wanted to be paid, but because of Balsillie's offer to buy and move the team.

The league will investigate whether Moyes had the authority to file the bankruptcy petition, Bettman said, before adding that the league would prefer to find new local owners rather than relocate the franchise.

"We think when a franchise is in trouble, you try and fix the problems," Bettman said. "That's what we did in Pittsburgh and Ottawa and Buffalo prior to our work stoppage. That's what we did when the perception was that five out of the six Canadian franchises around the turn of the century were in trouble. We fixed the problems. We don't run out on cities."

Reports suggest that, in order to hasten the process, Balsillie has told Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky that if he is able to purchase and move the team, he will build a new arena and name it after Gretzky's father.

Sports writer Howard Bloom, publisher of Sports Business News, said he has heard that Balsillie has offered Gretzky a stake in the team worth between 10 and 15 per cent. Bloom also reported speculation that Balsillie would build a new arena for the team named for Gretzky patriarch, Walter.

The overtures to Gretzky show Balsillie will do what it takes to become the owner of an NHL franchise, Bloom said, and the moves may just work.

"It's not that far-fetched. But as far as Gretzky, never say never," Bloom said Wednesday on CTV Newsnet.

"And you know one thing about Wayne Gretzky: his heart is in hockey. His heart is in his country. And I'm sure Wayne Gretzky, who has also stated that he believes there should be a second NHL franchise in Southern Ontario, would want to be a part of it."

In addition to reaching out to the Great One, Balsillie has sweetened the deal for the NHL by offering $17 million in bridge financing to keep the team alive before the sale goes through.

His offer also stipulates that every investor in the team gets "100 cents on the dollar the money they are owed," Bloom said.

"You gotta like Jim Balsillie if for no other reason his tenacious desire to do this," Bloom said. "You don't get to be a billionaire by being a bad businessman."

Balsillie, the 48-year-old co-CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion -- which makes the BlackBerry wireless device -- has tried twice before to purchase an NHL team and move it to Canada.

In 2007, he tried to purchase and move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, Ont. That offer was rebuffed. Before that, he expressed interest in purchasing the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If Balsillie's offer is accepted, the Coyotes would become the NHL's seventh Canadian franchise. It would also be the team's second stint in Canada. The team was formerly the Winnipeg Jets between 1979 and 1996.

Buying the team an 'exciting opportunity'

At a news conference on Tuesday night, Balsillie declined to say which city would host the team.

"What I will say is, I think this is an enormously exciting opportunity," he said. "I don't have to tell anyone here it's the greatest game in the whole wide world."

Balsillie has launched a website,, for fans to show their support for his endeavour.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who was with the team when it moved from Winnipeg, said Wednesday that speculation the team may be moving yet again is upsetting, but part of the game.

"There's a reason why I've stayed there and a reason why I've been in Phoenix for that long," said Doan, a native of Halkirk, Alta., who is currently competing for Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Switzerland. "It's not like I just got there. This is home for my family and my kids.

"Obviously, it'd be tough. But that's part of hockey and you deal with it."

The head of the NHL Players' Association, Paul Kelly, said the issue must be settled quickly because a new season starts in five months.

"You can't let the thing linger I would say much past the end of the month of June," Kelly told The Canadian Press in Switzerland. "I'm hopeful the sides can either come together or the court will make the time to resolve these issues."

Kelly added that he has long advocated for another team for the healthy Southern Ontario hockey market, be it in the Hamilton/Kitchener area, or a second team in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Canadian politicians are expressing their support of a second NHL team for Southern Ontario.

"I'd love another NHL team in Canada . . . particularly Southern Ontario can support another team," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday in Prague, where he is engaged in trade talks with the European Union.

Harper would not comment specifically on the Balsillie deal, but did say he has spoken to some NHL owners about the possibility of another team in the region, in addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday he would cheer for any new team in the province and believes that there are enough fans across the region to support more than one team.

But he added that he would not intervene in Balsillie's efforts to purchase the Coyotes and would not offer taxpayer funds to help move the franchise.

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press