ST. LOUIS -- The National Hockey League Thursday decribed as 'a sham' the $60 million lawsuit filed against the league by Ralston Purina Co., the former owner of the St. Louis Blues.
In a response to an amended suit filed by Ralston Purina in U.S. District Court, the NHL also said the company deliberately hid the fact that if the league approved the sale of the team to a group in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, it would not have a satisfactory arena for the 1983-84 season.
After the league's Board of Governors rejected the proposed sale and transfer of the Blues, Ralston Purina filed a $60 million lawsuit against the NHL, alleging anti-trust violations.
The league Thursday called the legal action 'a sham, a public relations scheme and an attempt to coerce the NHL into paying money into Ralston Purina's corporate treasury.'
The NHL stripped Ralston Purina of the Blues' franchise and sold the team to Harry Ornest, but is keeping the money from the sale in escrow pending the outcome of Ralston Purina's lawsuit. The NHL has said it will not give the proceeds to the company until the lawsuit is dropped.
The league also said Ralston Purina had terminated the proposed deal with the group in Saskatoon three days after filing its lawsuit against the NHL.
The NHL said 'Ralston Purina's intentional aborting of such an agreement of sale was done in a covert manner, willfully concealing the fact of its termination from the NHL, this court and the public of St. Louis.'
The NHL has filed a counterclaim against Ralston Purina in the court of U.S. District Judge William L. Hungate. No trial date has been set for the suits.