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Fans rally in Hamilton to voice their message

Just over a month ago, Phoenix Coyotes fans held a rally at the Native New Yorker restaurant in Glendale, Arizona on just five days notice to voice their desire to keep their team right where it is.

Fast forward to yesterday. The Make It Seven campaign held a rally of its own called "Make It Seven Day" in downtown Hamilton, Ontario. Here, hockey fans gathered at Jackson Square, located behind Copps Coliseum to deliver their own message that they want a National Hockey League team as the seventh in Canada.

Led by BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie's efforts to bring a team to the southwestern Ontario region, Make It Seven put together a rally with more time to prepare than their Save The Coyotes counterparts did.

Prior to the recent Make It Seven launch, another such organization has been doing its part to rally fans together to support the same cause. Some in attendance at yesterday's rally brought printed signs for the Bring the NHL to Hamilton campaign.

"At this point in the campaign, we need those men in the NHL Board (of Governors) to know that we're are not going to be denied that it's time to sit down and talk with Mr. Balsillie because we want an NHL team here and we want to bring it home where it belongs," Bring the NHL to Hamilton rally co-chairperson Michelle Febers told CBC News: Today host Nancy Wilson.

The Bring the NHL to Hamilton campaign launched its web site on October 1, 2008 and has grown into an online destination where you can learn about the history of hockey in Hamilton as well as find news items in relation to the cause. While it is not directly linked to Make It Seven that is backed by Balsillie, they have the same message for league headquarters in New York City.

Outgoing Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 5th and in turn agreed to sell the franchise to Balsillie on the condition he is able to move it to Hamilton. The NHL has contested that Moyes was not in the authority to make such a transaction since they have been providing financial assistance to keep the Coyotes in operation. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Moyes immediately went to United States Bankruptcy Court to find a resolution to the matter. However, after a ruling by District of Arizona judge Redfield T. Baum stated that there was not enough time to resolve all issues in this case before an aggressively imposed Balsillie deadline of June 29th to close the sale, it would not be allowed to go through. Balsillie's offer had resembled the current franchise debt of $212.5 million, obviously what Moyes needs to pay off creditors in full what is owed.

As a result, this bides more time for the league to find a buyer who is committed to keeping the team in Phoenix's neighboring city of Glendale. The Coyotes will for at the very least be playing their 2009-2010 season home games at Arena with or without the NHL's financial backing. At this point, they're aiming to hold an auction in September and Balsillie will still be allowed to place a bid. If no buyer is found, at a later time relocation would be explored.

"Definitely we still want the Coyotes," Febers also said in her interview. "That's not gonna change. The basic line of the story is, we want the NHL to come home."

Whether the Coyotes stay in Arizona or if Hamilton gets a team remains to be seen. Either way, both locations have expressed their desire to have NHL hockey. One wants to keep it while the other wants to get it.

In the meantime, are you looking for some coverage on the rally? The Hamilton Spectator has a video clip while Hamilton radio station CMHL-AM provided interview audio soundbytes of key supporters plus the YouTube video below (courtesy of CMHL-AM).