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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 19: MORE MESSAGE MANAGEMENT
Published October 19, 1994
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, two NHL VPs and Devils Owner John McMullen held a luncheon interview with reporters from the NEW YORK TIMES. Bettman promised an announcement soon on potential game cancellation and addressed the current state of negotiations. Bettman said 40-50 games were necessary for a season to be considered legitimate, but that the warm weather's effect on some rinks would prevent games after June. On the stall in negotiations, Bettman said he thought the players "might be waiting to see 'if maybe the owners are going to blink.'" In defending the owners' proposal, McMullen compared teams owned by individuals to those owned by corporations (namely the Blues and Rangers): "If you have no money of your own invested in it, and your job depends on your ability to put a winning team out there, as long as your boss doesn't cut you off, you just keep spending" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). TOUGH TIMES? In Toronto, Bob McKenzie reports that unhappiness with the Times' coverage was the reason for the meeting: "Seems the league hasn't been impressed by the tone of coverage by Times reporters and columnists during the owners' lockout" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19). REFUNDS: The NHL planned to announce its ticket-refund policy around November 1, but that has been pushed up -- "perhaps today" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). The NHL clubs have received the first draft of a proposed policy with an announcement expected after suggestions return from the teams. Single-game purchasers are likely to be offered the option of a refund or credit; season-ticket holders would receive refunds on a monthly basis on games that have been officially canceled. Clubs could also offer season-ticket holders credit toward the '95 playoffs or the '94-95 season (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/19). At an average of 10,000 season tickets per team (estimated at $30 each), and a going rate of 3.2%, Dave Luecking computes that NHL owners have earned $519,715 in interest to date on season-ticket revenue (ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH, 10/19). LOOK WHO'S NOT TALKING: Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "cannot even decide who will call whom" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister: "There's nothing scheduled. Bob is here and we're waiting to hear something" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). ALL EARS: The Whalers held a fan forum with about 350 season-ticket holders and corporate backers. Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos: "I would be happy to return a quarter of the season ticket money, with interest, and maybe the players will start to believe we're really serious about it" (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/19). The Sharks plan a similar session today (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/19). THE BOB & BURKE SHOW: NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Operations Brian Burke took his tour of NHL cities to Southern California, while NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "returned fire" from Burke's Monday Vancouver stop. Goodenow refutes the claim that the NHL wants to help small-market teams: "They want to control expenses and they want the players to take the brunt of it" (Jack Keating, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/19). Burke, on the lull: "If this goes on to a serious length it will start to look silly. Our phone numbers work too, you know. Nobody on their side has a broken finger" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 10/19). SOMETHING BRUIN' IN BOSTON? Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden sent a letter to his players this week explaining the league's position. Bruins center Adam Oates: "I'm not a lawyer, but it (owners' proposal) sounds good on paper" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/19). But Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney takes issue with the owners' promise of guaranteed salaries, arguing that while team levels may remain stable, players on the lower end of the salary scale will be hurt (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). YAWN? CNBC's Sue Herera: "The hockey season is still delayed but Americans don't seem to care." A CNBC/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 1,000 adult fans found: 78% do not care that the NHL season has not started; 83% do not care if NHL season is cancelled completely; 81% believe pro athletes are overpaid; 61% say there should be a salary cap in the NHL ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 10/18). NEXT BEST THING? Attendance is up for the Ontario Hockey League -- one of Canada's three major junior hockey leagues -- at a rate of 557 more fans per game. The boost is attributed to the NHL lockout and the absence of post-season Blue Jays "hoopla" for the first time in three years. The OHL averaged 2,767/game in '93-94 (TORONTO SUN, 10/19).