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The Clinton Administration named former Labor Secretary William Usery as a special mediator in "an attempt to craft a settlement in the two-month-old baseball strike." Usery, 70, who served under Gerald Ford and was director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will be introduced this afternoon at a White House news conference. (Maske & Swoboda, WASHINGTON POST, 10/14). Labor Secretary Robert Reich asked the players and owners to agree to "return to the bargaining table next week" with Usery acting as a special mediator. The two sides have not met since September 9. Gene Orza, MLBPA's associate general counsel: "It has been clear for a while that the Administration, as well as it should, has a keen and ongoing interest in seeing that this disagreement is resolved" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 10/14). One administration source said they have "been working behind the scenes on this for quite some time" (Claire Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 10/14). NO COMMENTS FROM THE TOP: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr refused comment on the appointment, but Orioles Owner Peter Angelos called it "a constructive and positive step." Angelos: "In labor matters, (Usery) has few peers" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 10/14). Another owner called it a "significant step in the right direction" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/14). MORE LAYOFFS: Central Baseball -- the Commissioner's office, the American and National Leagues, MLB Properties, the Baseball Network and MLB International -- reduced its work force by 27 employees due to revenue losses from the work stoppage (MLB).
"European clubs won't be allowed to sign locked out NHL players and ignite a potential legal battle," according to Rene Fasel, president of the Int'l Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Fasel: "We will not let them play. We have a contract with the NHL (governing player transfers) and will abide by that contract." NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister said the union has not yet explored the legal hurdles on playing in Europe or the minors. McAllister said the NHLPA "will make its position clear next week" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 10/14). Fasel's statement "came as a surprise" to several agents. Ron Salcer, who represents Pavel Bure among others: "This would be very disturbing" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/14). On advice from its lawyers, the NHL decided "not to prevent players from playing in the IHL or Europe during the work stoppage" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/14). For one, the Canucks won't stand in Bure's way if he wants to play in Europe. Canucks VP George McPhee: "Legally, he can do it" (Iain MacIntyre, VANCOUVER SUN, 10/14). And after meeting with Doug Gilmour, who is seeking a place to play, Maple Leaf President Cliff Fletcher would only say: "He wants to play to keep in as much shape as possible, but it's not a risk-free thing" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/14). The IIHF's decision "is surely to result in a windfall for lawyers, as clubs and the players involved are expected to challenge the ruling in court" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/14). THE IHL: The N.Y. TIMES reports that Marty McSorley, a member of the NHLPA's negotiating team, is seeking to play with the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/14). But agent Rick Dudley is doubtful that IHL teams "will open up their rosters." Dudley: "I don't think the Detroit Vipers -- who are basically sold out, anyway -- are going to bring in five NHL players. The economics would discourage them" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/14). P.R. EFFORTS: St. Louis was the first stop for NHL VP of Hockey Operations Brian Burke in a seven-city tour that will take him to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose and Dallas. Burke: "It drives me nuts to read quotes where a player says this'll drive salaries down, it'll be tax avoidance, teams will trade players to get down to the cap. We've guaranteed that their share will not be diminished." Burke also called the union's slow pace during negotiations "intolerable and inexcusable" (Dave Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/14). Execs from all NHL clubs met with media to go over facts and figures. Lightning Governor David LeFevre: "These figures are real. There are teams losing money, and we are one of them" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/14). But in Vancouver, Tony Gallagher calls the NHL's claim that players get 62% of gross revenue a "monstrous distortion" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/14). BACK TO THE TABLE? CNN's Nick Charles: "The key to the NHL labor news today can be summed up in a single work: Nothing" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/13). Burke said the league will attempt to restart talks next week (Mult.) NHL VP Communications Arthur Pincus said the league will have an announcement "later this week" on the schedule and possible cancellations (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/14). CRACK-IN-THE-FACADE WATCH: In Toronto, Dave Fuller writes the owners "appear to be playing a game of divide-and-conquer" with the players. But, "as antsy as the players are to get back to work, there are no signs yet of a rift developing inside the union" (TORONTO SUN, 10/14). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont asks, "How long can the rank and file go without checks? ... Probably 50-60 percent of the NHLPA membership will begin to feel the crunch in a matter of 3-5 paychecks (mid-November to mid- December). The owners are banking on it, literally" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/13). NO BIG LOSS: Salomon Brothers' Jay Cohen on the impact on ITT's recent acquisition of Madison Square Garden, the Rangers, Knicks and MSG Network: "Even if the season is lost, affect on earnings may be a nickel a share in '95. And I expect the company earns about $8.80 a share, so it's a relatively minor impact" ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 10/13).
Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson "is aggressively lobbying the NFL to assign" his team to the NFC West. Richardson said yesterday that he recently wrote NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "stressing the Panthers' preference for being placed" in the NFC instead of the AFC. His argument is that with the proximity of the Falcons and Redskins, Carolina fans are more accustomed to seeing the NFC. Richardson also said the affiliation with the "popular" NFC could help the team "offset anticipated losing records in the Panthers' first several seasons." Assuming there is no realignment, the Panthers will be in the NFC because the overlap between the Jaguars' and Buccaneers' TV markets would prevent those two from being in the same conference. Withouth realignment, the Jaguars would join the AFC Central. However, a swap of the Colts (AFC East) and Bucs (NFC Central) would reverse the assignment of the two expansion teams. Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, who also wants to be in the NFC, favors the Bucs-Colts swap. NFL owners meet in Chicago November 1-2 for final discussions on realignment (Charles Chandler, KNIGHT- RIDDER/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/14).