Erie Otters Won’t Be Auctioned on Courthouse Steps – For Now

Hockey teams change hands during the season fairly regularly, but a court-imposed auction is not usually part of the sale transaction.

Just days ago, it looked as though the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters could be auctioned off to satisfy a roughly $4.5 judgment against the team’s corporate owner, Bassin Hockey, Inc. and held by a subsidiary of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. But Bassin Hockey, which is owned by Ontario resident Sherwood Bassin, has filed suit to stop the sale, and a federal judge has sided with Bassin and halted the sale – for now.

A lot of this goes back a few years to when the Otters were an OHL punchline. In 2011, the team was hemorrhaging money (and not winning hockey games, either, which doesn’t help at the gate) and Bassin went to the Edmonton Oilers for to get close to $4 million in loans.

Ultimately, the Oilers will likely re-file their case against Bassin as a breach of contract suit. Hockey business watchers should pay attention, as these kinds of suits often provide a deep insight into how teams – and leagues – operate behind the scenes.

Considering that the Canadian Hockey League, which governs the operation of Canada’s three Major Junior hockey leagues, is facing a unionization effort and  some serious, and potentially very costly, class action litigation, there is a lot of dirty laundry (gitch?) that could be aired should the Oilers re-file the case.

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