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Baseball's labor negotiations resumed yesterday in Washington. CNBC's Sue Herera: "The talks were short, lasting only 90 minutes" ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 10/19). ESPN's Linda Cohn: "Nothing has changed. After not talking for 40 days, both sides in this labor dispute could only manage to meet for 90 minutes" ("SportsCenter," 10/19). Most of the session was devoted to special mediator William Usery briefing representatives of team owners and striking players "on how he plans to approach the renewed talks, and setting ground rules for future get-togethers." Usery said the next bargaining session will not come until next week. He plans to speak to both sides separately then bring them together "when he feels they can make progress." Usery: "The meeting, as far as I'm concerned, achieved the results I wanted to achieve" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 10/20). Usery: "The journey is starting today. We have a lot of things to overcome, but we have a lot of things to do and I believe we can" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/19). REVIEWS: It was "a non-substantive ceremonial get-together" (Bill Madden, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/20). Richard Ravitch, the owners' negotiator, "offered hints of change." Ravitch did not rule out any "possible steps the owners could take that would affect players and their ability to sign contracts, but he seemed to indicate nothing was imminent" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/20). "Remember this is Washington, home of gridlock, not Oz" (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 10/20). "If there was animosity, it was hard to detect. ... But Usery was not selling false optimism" (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/20). "The official stance of each bargaining unit was positive and mildly optimistic, which also was reminiscent of that first abortive attempt at mediation" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 10/20). LOVE, MARGE: Reds owner Marge Schott is personally signing each of the ticket refund checks being sent to fans. "It's believed that no other club owners are "affixing their signatures in this matter." Requests for Reds refunds -- "and, temporarily, Schott's autograph" -- must be in by October 31 (Chris Haft, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 10/20).
Officials for the NHL's three CA teams announced their ticket-refund policies in advance of the league's official statement on game cancellations. ANAHEIM: Mighty Ducks officials announced that tickets for single games postponed will be honored on the rescheduled game date or refunded at the ticket holder's request. Tickets purchased for single games that are canceled will be refunded. The club has asked that fans who wish to obtain refunds wait until the day after the scheduled game. Season-ticket or mini- plan holders may opt for a credit to be used towards the purchase of '95 playoff tickets, or next year's season tickets or mini- plans. Ticket holders who elect the credit option will also receive a discount on the purchase price of playoff tickets. Season ticket or mini-plan holders who do not elect the credit option may request a refund which will be issued monthly as games are canceled or rescheduled (Mighty Ducks). SAN JOSE: The Sharks were among three NHL teams to offer interest payments to season-ticket and partial season-ticket holders as part of a new refund plan. Ticket holders have three options: 1) Bypass refunds for canceled games, but collect 6% interest on the season-ticket account balance until the season resumes or is canceled, retroactive to October 1. The interest can go toward playoff games, '95-96 season tickets, or be withdrawn once a decision to start or cancel the season is made. 2) Accept refunds for canceled games and earn 3.5% on the remaining account balance. 3) Accept refund for full ticket package, but lose priority position for season tickets. The Kings announced similar plans (Darren Sabedra, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/20).
The NHL owners "will hold a conference call with major corporate sponsors next week, bringing them up to date on the status of negotiations," according to a report in this morning's TORONTO SUN. Nike and Anheuser-Busch are the NHL's two top sponsors (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/20). FIRST "PRESSURE POINT"? The NHL "will announce by tomorrow that it is restructuring a best-case scenario, 76- or 78-game regular season schedule per team, thus guaranteeing that players will not collect full-season, 84-game pay," according to a report in this morning's N.Y. POST. While cancellations will "place a burden on the teams in the form of ticket refunds, NHL management believes that the players are currently more financially vulnerable" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 10/20). OATES DRAWS IRE OF FELLOW PLAYERS: Several Canucks were "suitably unimpressed with the apparent first wedge" in the union -- Adam Oates's comments that the owners' proposal "sounds pretty good." Canuck Jeff Brown: "If that's the way Adam feels, it's a shame. Maybe he hasn't saved for this and he's trying to take the rest of the guys down with him. This is just what the owners would like to see, but Adam is only one guy in the union and I don't think it will hurt our cause" (Elliott Pap, VANCOUVER SUN, 10/20). MCMULLEN DRAWS IRE OF A FELLOW MANAGER: Rangers President & GM Neil Smith said that Rangers VP & General Counsel Kenneth Munoz telephoned NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to complain about remarks made by Devils Owner John McMullen in a luncheon meeting with N.Y. TIMES reporters. On Tuesday, McMullen compared the financial standing of the Devils to the Rangers and claimed that the Rangers were able to spend "between $25 and $27 million" on their player payroll to win the Cup in '93-94. Smith would not give specific figures, but said the Rangers' payroll was under $20 million. He called McMullen's comments "objectionable, to say the very least" ... "very, very inaccurate" ... and "just out-and-out ridiculous." The league had no comment on the dispute (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/20). THIS IS SOLIDARITY? While MSG President Dave Checketts publicly states his unity with fellow owners, he "all but admitted the Rangers wanted to accept the players' no-strike pledge and start the season on Oct. 1." Checketts, on the booking problems created by the lockout at Madison Square Garden: "It's not like we can call Barbra Streisand and have her singing the next night." Toronto, Montreal, St. Louis and L.A. are also said to have favored playing over a lockout (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/20). WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO START TALKS? The two sides have not met in two weeks, and neither the league nor the union would predict talks in the near future. In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes, "Only when the losses, real losses, begin to mount is there any hope of movement in the stalemated negotiations" (TORONTO STAR, 10/20). According to a source "with close ties to NHL management," there is a "good chance" that the U.S. government will attempt to force the league and the NHLPA to accept a mediator. While neither the U.S. nor Canadian government has "complete authority" because of the game's international nature, "it would be difficult to reject such a request because of a public-relations problem alone" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/20). A league spokesperson "denied that the services of a mediator had been rejected, as some sources reported, because he said none had been requested" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/20). In New York, Mark Everson writes, "The first step toward getting talks started again is clearly the league's responsibility" (N.Y. POST, 10/20). DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: While NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow is "fuming" over NHL Senior VP & Director of Hockey Ops Brian Burke's tour of several North American cities, "his aides say he has at least contemplated doing the same thing." Jets Player Rep Stephane Quintal: "If the NHL would do less media work and more negotiating, we'd be better off" (Tim Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/20). Burke's trip took him to Dallas yesterday.
In what THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY considers a "must read," this morning's USA TODAY provides a detailed look at the finances of MLB teams. The numbers are projected for a full 1994 season, and were compiled in conjunction with Martin Stone, owner of the AAA Phoenix Firebirds. Here are some highlights: BEST BOTTOM LINE -- Rockies, Yankees, Marlins, Orioles, Mets; WORST BOTTOM LINE -- Royals, Tigers, Astros, Giants, Mariners; HIGHEST EXPENSES -- Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays; HIGHEST REVENUES -- Yankees, Braves, Orioles, Blue Jays, Dodgers; BEST AT THE GATE -- Blue Jays, Braves, Orioles, Rockies, White Sox; WORST AT THE GATE -- Padres, Angels, Pirates, Brewers, Mariners; HIGHEST LOCAL TV/RADIO REVENUE -- Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Braves - LOWEST LOCAL TV/RADIO REVENUE -- Rockies, Twins, Royals, Brewers, Mariners; HIGHEST PLAYER PAYROLL -- Yankees, Atlanta, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers; LOWEST PLAYER PAYROLL -- Padres, Expos, Marlins, Pirates, Colorado (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 10/20).