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NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow meets today with about 30-40 player agents, a constituency from which "there have been grumbles and complaints emanating. ... His ability to cement their backing could be a key factor in maintaining player solidarity as the players begin to miss paycheques. If the agents begin to bail, their clients won't be far behind" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/27). CANADIAN PRESS' Alan Adams describes the agents as split among the "hawks, doves and the nod-the-head gang" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/27). Briefing the media and execs in FL, NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke hoped for some progress from today's summit: "The agents played a very significant role in settling the 1992 strike, and they could play a significant role again" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/27). THE SOLIDARITY CUP: Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille were the first two NHL stars to commit to the NHLPA's two-day "Four on Four Challenge" in Hamilton on November 11-12. The round-robin event will feature four teams of NHL players -- from the U.S., Ontario, Quebec and Western Canada. For now, the only plans are to air the event in Canada, but NHLPA Dir of Communications Steve McAllister said the possibility of a U.S. broadcast is still being explored (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/27). Gabe Macaluso, CEO of Hamilton's Copps Coliseum, said the 17,500-seat arena will be sold out. Macaluso: "We haven't had anything like this since the final game of Canada-Russia in 1987" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/27). Bruins President Harry Sinden: "I hope they do play them. Maybe then they'll understand how hard it is to stage a game" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/27). IF IT'S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE HELSINKI: Wayne Gretzky is planning a "goodwill tour" in Europe, with a group of elite players playing local clubs in European hockey cities, probably sometime in December. Gretzky said it is an idea he has had for two years, "but the NHL has squashed it." Gretzky: "What I want to do is make it very legitimate hockey, make it good, competitive, strong hockey, strong enough that television would love to buy it and support it." Tentative sites include Helsinki, Stockholm, Dusseldorf, Bern and Milan (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 10/27). Gretzky will not be available to play in the NHLPA's Hamilton tournament, due to a previously planned Caribbean cruise (Jim Taylor, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/27). OTHER NEWS & NOTES: The league denied a SPORTING NEWS report that federal mediator John Martin could join the talks as early as Tuesday. NHL VP of Communications Arthur Pincus: "As we have said over the past few weeks, we are not at the point where mediation or arbitration can help the process. We have got to get some common ground first" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 10/27)....Mighty Ducks coach Ron Wilson and 21 other members of the team's coaching and admin staff are taking other jobs within the Disney organization (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/27).
MLS "has accomplished one of its goals -- the financing is in place. However, organizers are so far behind in planning that they have proposed postponing the start of the league until 1996," according to a report in this morning's BOSTON GLOBE. The "required" $75M in capitalization has been confirmed by sources, but MLS Chair Alan Rothenberg is yet to announce investors. Rumored investors include Soccer USA Partners of New York, a group led by the Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, NFL Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt and VA billionaire John Kluge. But both Hunt and Kluge are "upset" their names have also been associated with the investment before an official announcement. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, also a reported investor, "would prefer" to plan for a '96 start. MLS organizers have proposed a shortened schedule, in conjunction with U.S. Cup '95 and '96 Olympics preparations (Frank Dell'Apa, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). Rothenberg "conceded" yesterday that a franchise in Long Island, NY, could be delayed for "the first couple of years." The league is looking for a $2M investor to rebuild Hofstra Stadium (Alex Yannis, N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). Columnist Roscoe Nance suggests MLS should form a two division league with the APSL, one consisting of the APSL's individually owned teams and the other of the MLS's "single-entity teams." Nnace notes the APSL presently has one thing which the MLS does not -- "teams playing games" (USA TODAY, 10/27).
The NBA and the NBPA, "days away from an unannounced league- ordered work stoppage, reached an agreement in principle" late last night on a no-strike/no-lockout pledge that will allow the season to start on time on November 4. According to sources, the league had notified the NBPA "about a week ago that a lockout would have begun Monday had they not come to this understanding. That will become a moot point, however, when the pact is completed and announced" in New York today (Scott Howard-Cooper, L.A. TIMES, 10/27). The joint NBA-NBPA news conference is scheduled for 2:00pm EDT (USA TODAY, 10/27). Had the no- strike/no-lockout pledge not been reached, NBA owners would have discussed the possibility of a lockout during a meeting in Chicago next Monday. Negotiations between NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham are ongoing (Richard Justice, WASHINGTON POST, 10/27). Yesterday afternoon, Grantham sent a fax to agents on the CBA advisory board stating that league officials had informed him that if no agreement "in principle" is reached on a new contract by Monday, the owners would lock out the players (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). THE DEAL: In New York, Murray Chass reports that the "key element" was the consent of players David Wood and Howard Eisley to postpone a lawsuit filed on their behalf Monday over the league's "allegedly artificial reduction of the salary cap for this season" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). Eisley said before a game on Tuesday that "he knew little about the suit. In fact, his name was volunteered by his agent, Frank Catapano." Catapano said that Jeffrey Kessler, the attorney handling the suit, called various agents and asked if any of their clients would have been paid more if the "cap hadn't been misrepresented" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/26). NEGOTIATIONS: Despite the no-strike, no-lockout deal, the two sides "were not close" to agreement on a new CBA. Last week, the league offered the union a proposal that includes a hard salary cap, "removing some of the gimmicks that have enabled teams to circumvent the cap." The union proposes eliminating the cap entirely (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). The hard cap proposal by the league also included a prohibition on contracts with an "escape clause after one year." That has been a "sticking point" with the NBA, which took several players to court over their opt-out clauses (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). According to one owner, "the atmosphere at the bargaining table has been fairly positive" (Peter Vecsey, N.Y. POST, 10/27). MacMullan, from "SportsCenter": "The one drawback to the players -- it gives David Stern everything he wants. The games continue, his reputation remains intact, and the expired agreement, which he happens to like very much, will remain in effect" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/26).