Associated Press

Both sides with a stake in the Phoenix Coyotes prepared to do battle Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court.

The National Hockey League is attempting to keep Glendale trucking magnate Jerry Moyes from selling the team and letting it move back to Canada.

Moyes and his group say hockey in a nontraditional market just doesn't work and despite being in Arizona a dozen years, the team has failed to develop a large following.

The NHL says hockey can succeed here despite the team's history of financial problems.

The Coyotes money problems can be directly tied to its lackluster performance, said Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner. The team needs some “competitive success” to jump-start interest from fans and attract corporate sponsors, he said.

Daly said the Coyotes are poised to make a "competitive breakthrough” with their youth movement. "With the right conditions, we can see adequate support in this marketplace,” Daly said.

Others aren't so sure.

Jeff Shumway, the team's former chief executive, said the Coyotes mounted numerous efforts to stimulate fan interest and were competitive much of last season, but still couldn't attract fans and lost millions.

"At this point in time, hockey isn't financially viable here,” said Shumway, who ran the team from April 2006 to January 2009.

Shumway said an NHL official told him a team needs to make the playoffs four out of five years to generate a loyal following.

Moyes has said his ownership of the Coyotes has resulted in stiff annual losses ranging from $20 million to $30 million.

The Coyotes contend the NHL has no right to block a sale to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, whose $212.5 million bid would pay off creditors, including Moyes.

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