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The NFL's Management Council has approved a measure that will "preclude teams from receiving" 1st or 2nd-round draft choices in '95 as compensation for net losses in the '94 free agent market. Falcons owner Rankin Smith is "angered by a unilateral decision he labeled 'a bombshell.'" The Falcons figure to be among the biggest losers in the policy switch. The Falcons were one of the NFL's most "aggressive teams in free agency," but at the same time, they lost high-profile players like Deion Sanders, Chris Hinton, Michael Haynes and Chris Miller. Smith figures his team would receive an extra 1st- or 2nd-round pick for the losses. Equally upset by the ruling were team officials from Buffalo and Houston. The NFL began adding compensatory picks to teams who lost significant players to free agency in '93 (Len Pasquarelli, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/30).
Blackhawk Chris Chelios called the NHL league office to apologize for his comments that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman or his family could be endangered should there be a lockout, according to NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow. Goodenow: "Obviously, it's a stressful situation for everyone involved. This is not to condone improper behavior." Chelios' call was taken by NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, but as of last night Chelios had not spoken to Bettman. NHL VP Commuications Arthur Pincus: "In times like this, we understand that people say things that they may not mean. We hope that this is the case here" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). Chelios did not talk to the media on Thursday. NHLPA Media Relation Dir Steve McAllister: "It's impossible for us to control what 600 hockey players might say" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/30). In Los Angeles, Mike Downey writes, "Although I cannot condone such sentiments, bilious as they are, I can almost understand young Chelios' rage." He does add, however: "Chris has apparently been to one too many Martin Scorcese movies" (L.A. TIMES, 9/30). ESPN analyst Al Morganti said that "nobody likes Chris Chelios throwing those kinds of words," but that his comments haven't "changed the philosophy of the situation" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/29). Pincus said the league has no plans to fine Chelios (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/30). PLAYERS STICK BY HIM: Alan Lessels reports that comments about Bettman in the Bruins' locker room were pointed, but that Chelios "went a step -- or three, or four -- further." Bruin Ray Bourque: "Chris got a little emotional there" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30). "Many of the Flyers, while not endorsing the length to which Chelios went, blasted Bettman on their own." Eric Lindros: "He deserves it" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/30). MORE LOCKER-ROOM VENTING: NHLPA VP Marty McSorley: "Basically, the idea is to attack the union when they feel the union is at its weakest. I think they want to put the players in their place, gain control and be able to reap the benefits" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/30). Gretzky said Bettman underestimated the players' resolve: "It's a strong union" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Ranger Jay Wells on Bettman: "He'll get his some day. Some punk comes in who never sweated a day in his life trying to revamp the league" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 9/30). One NHLPA source: "Bettman's saying publicly that he's concerned about the Canadian small markets, but it's a lie. He told Bob (Goodenow) he didn't care about them at all" (N.Y. POST, 9/30). Blackhawk Bernie Nicholls said he "nearly puked" when he saw "Bettman's smiling picture" on Wednesday (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30). Maple Leaf Todd Gill said Bettman is "taking food out of my family's mouths": "The man has no idea about hockey. He's a businessman" (TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Canuck Sergio Momesso: "Money is what it's all about -- nothing else" (VANCOUVER SUN, 9/30). HOLLYWOOD HERE WE COME: The NHLPA gave Penguin players permission to appear in scenes from Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Sudden Death." The players skate tomorrow in the Igloo and will play a simulated game while Van Damme tries to save the Igloo from terrorists (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/30).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to announce today in New York that the start of the season will be postponed, while NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow pledged a strike-free season while talks continue on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Goodenow said their "commitment" not to strike "removes the NHL's only stated reason for the October 1 lockout threat." Goodenow added: "If this proposal is rejected, it means (management wants) a fight. If the NHL wants a labor fight now, so be it." Bettman conducted a lengthy conference call with owners last night in which they reportedly rejected the players' offer. A formal announcement is expected today (Mult., 9/30). ANOTHER D-DAY: Owners, managers and club officials from across the NHL have been urged to attend the 1pm EDT press conference. One "unnamed" owner confirmed that a lockout will occur: "It's pretty obvious we won't be playing" (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30). Bettman will warn the players that if there is "not significant progress" by the middle of October, there could be "serious consequences" for the rest of the season. Wayne Gretzky: "We kind of expected this answer. ... We have told our players this is not something that is going to change over night, it is something that could go on for three, four, or five months" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/30). OWNERS WON'T BEND: Devils owner John McMullen contends that franchises "can't exist" under the current format: "With the money I have spent on this team, I could have thrown a dart at the New York Stock Exchange and done better" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Senators principal owner Rod Bryden: "As players salaries go up, the ability of teams to support the other things needed to effectively deliver the total package of hockey goes down" (John MacKinnon, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/30). ESPN hockey analyst Al Morganti said three owners told him, "if it comes down to it, we'd rather not play this season. We'll lose more money playing" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/29). Bob Ryan reports after the conference call with Bettman and the owners, Bruins President/GM Harry Sinden -- a man "who has an opinion on everything" -- became Sgt. Schultz of Hogan's Heroes (as in "I know nothing") (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30). OR WILL THEY? Some teams, like Chicago and St. Louis, stand to lose as much as $1M for every game cancelled (TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Gretzky suggested that ownership may not be unified: "I know the L.A. Kings owners all want to play Saturday night" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/30). Panther captain Brian Skrudland said he talked with Owner Wayne Huizenga "and agreed with him 100%": "I'm hoping that Mr. Huizenga, [Black Hawks Owner Bill Wirtz], all the Misters that own hockey teams are going to be the Misters that make the decision and not Mr. Bettman" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/30). GOOD REVIEWS FOR GOODENOW: David Shoalts calls the NHLPA no-strike offer "a skillful public-relations move" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/30). Richard Sandomir writes that Goodenow's announcement was the "classiest TV moment by a union leader during this unusual confluence of labor problems" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). Larry Brooks calls Goodenow's announcement "a masterful public relations stroke." Brooks adds: "It is not a labor fight the NHL wants, it is a new deal. The NHLPA is quite content to live with the old deal" (N.Y. POST, 9/30). George Vescey: "If there is no start of the season, these hockey owners will have a lot of explaining to do" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). But Tony Gallagher writes: "All this last ditch pitch by the players achieved was to flush Bettman out of his stance of delaying the season on behalf of the fans" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30). Stan Fischler said the players have "the slight edge" in the P.R. war ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 9/29). BACKING BETTMAN: Bob McKenzie wrotes that Bettman is not a "hard-driving American lawyer killing the game": "He is representing his constituency the best way he knows how, using all the tools available to him" (TORONTO STAR, 9/30).