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BETTMAN SETS DEADLINE FOR NHL TALKS: NO PACT, NO PLAY
Published September 23, 1994
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declared that the season will be postponed if a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA is not in place when the regular season is scheduled to start on October 1. Although he refused to label the move a lockout, Bettman insisted that NHL owners will not allow any games to be played without an agreement. Bettman: "The absence of a collective bargaining agreement leaves us no choice." Bettman confirmed he and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow will meet in Toronto on Monday and said that a settlement then "won't be impossible" (Mult., 9/23). FACE-OFF: Bettman admitted that the announcement of a possible postponement was due to the lack of progress in negotiations with Goodenow: "At some point, if this goes too long, we will have to look at shortening the season or do other things. ... If we work very hard, there is enough time to make a deal. It will be difficult, it will be arduous but it will not be impossible. But as time slips away, it gets harder and harder." Bettman added: "What I've learned from baseball is that you can turn a season into a complete disaster if you open one without a collective agreement" (THE DAILY). Sources said that Bettman was prepared to "pull the plug" on training camps last Monday, but decided to give negotiations more time (Alan Adams, VANCOUVER SUN, 9/23). Bettman contended that a full season could still be played even if a postponement occurs (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/23). RESPONSE: Goodenow "made it clear" the players consider Bettman's declaration a lockout and said that the action is "strictly a pressure play" to scare the players into making concessions: "The lockout or postponement will not move the players or affect the players." Goodenow reiterated that the players have no intention of striking: "I have reminded the league that we played all last season without a contract and we had playoffs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/22). Stephen Brunt writes, "For Bob Goodenow and company, this is going to a tough one to win" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/23). CAN SETTLEMENT BE FOUND? Bettman on the NHLPA offer: "I actually think the fact they came to the table and proposed a tax was constructive. If I had to characterize the differences, they have called our tax a luxury tax; they have called their own tax a nuisance tax. The issue is going to be whether or not we can bridge that gap and get to a tax that is neither a luxury nor a nuisance that we can both live with" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 9/22). Bettman added: "The system we have now needs to be modified, sometimes drastically" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/22). LONG WORK STOPPAGE SEEN: ESPN's Al Morganti: "If it lasts much past a week or two, I'd say you're looking at a long one" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/22). Wayne Gretzky: "I don't believe we're going to be playing hockey; I believe there's going to a three- or four-month work stoppage" (CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/23). Whalers Player Rep Pat Verbeek: "They're trying to break the players. They're going to go as long as they can" (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/23). Flyers Player Rep Mark Recchi: "It might take a couple of weeks, but it's not going to get done in nine days" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/23). The Sharks' Gaetan Duchense: "I can't see something resolved in eight or nine days ... they're not even close" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/23). EXIT VISAS IMMINENT? There is speculation that several NHL players will choose to play in the IHL or for European clubs (Everson & Botte, N.Y. POST, 9/23). CENTER OF THE STORM: In Toronto, Al Strachacan: "Let's face it, Bettman wants a battle" (TORONTO SUN, 9/22). In Boston, Bob Ryan writes Bettman's "militancy may actually be frightening a few of his owners, that Bettman is actually a bit ahead of that curve" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/22). In Vancouver, Jim Taylor writes if Bettman does not recognize the "inherent dangers of Hockey Night in July," he is "blind, deaf and terminally oblivious" (VANCOUVER PROVINCE, 9/23). In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes that a lockout will occur because the "owners have been too stupid to meet budgets and too selfish to share revenues with each other" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/23). In New York, Steve Jacobson writes, "What a way for hockey to break out of the igloo of the Frozen North and join the main games!" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 9/23). Brett Hull labeled Bettman a "union buster": "This has been his plan since Day One. ... He doesn't care about the game at all." Blues' Brendan Shanahan on Bettman's announcement of a "postponement," rather than a lockout: "He's the kind of guy who'd say, 'It's not a wheel, it's's a round thing that spins around'" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/23).