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NHL SEASON OPENER DELAYED; "IS ANYBODY IN A HURRY HERE?"
Published October 3, 1994
In Toronto, Damien Cox reports, "Aside from the production of more evidence that both sides in the three-day-old NHL shutdown believe themselves to be both united and on the high moral ground, there was precious little progress" on Sunday toward a new collective bargaining agreement. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow spoke by phone, "and bargaining is expected to resume tomorrow in New York" (TORONTO STAR, 10/3). One person from the league suggested a neutral site (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/3). NHL VP & General Counsel Jeffrey Pash: "There's room for negotiation on virtually every issue" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 10/1). POSTPONEMENT: Bettman, announcing Friday that the start of the season will be postponed until October 15 in hopes of beginning play with an agreement: "We want a sensible system because we need to make the product stronger. If we have a stronger product we think we can generate more revenues for the benefit of everyone -- including, and especially, the players" (ESPN, 9/30). BREAKING TRAINING: Many players returned home after the NHLPA announced that players would not take part in team- sponsored training. The union ran an ad in papers in NHL cities across North America stating their case. SHOW THE NUMBERS: Gare Joyce writes that Bettman and the NHL "have provided little in the way of material backup for their claims" that they are losing money. Goodenow claims the union has not received "profit and loss information" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1). BEHIND THE SCENES: Larry Brooks reports that Goodenow told the N.Y. POST that Bettman acknowledged in a negotiating session last week that the NHL was seeking a salary cap. Goodenow: "Gary admitted to me that the league's payroll taxation proposal was a cap on salaries." Bettman, who has consistently contended that the league's plan is not a salary cap, was unavailable for comment. But the report notes that NHL ownership is willing to negotiate a CBA that includes revenue-sharing and guarantees players a percentage of all new income -- including pay-per-view -- if the players accept the luxury tax concept (N.Y. POST, 10/3). This morning's TORONTO SUN reports on a memo given to all owners detailing actions clubs "must take during the 'postponement'" in terms of P.R., cost-cutting, contract negotiations, roster moves, front-office operations, third-party contracts, picketing, etc. (TORONTO SUN, 10/3). WHAT'S AT STAKE? In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont doubts the "conventional wisdom" that a lockout would do the NHL "irreparable harm": "Chances are, hockey would survive (people forget), and the game has a far better chance of thriving if the owners can put themselves into healthier financial positions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2). Sports marketer Brandon Steiner: "There are so many new corporate sponsors and advertisers just stepping into the game. You just can't have this setback. Because that money, in such a competitive market place, will get funneled somewhere else real quick" ("Sports Weekly," ESPN, 10/2). Mike Lupica: "We are going to know something in six months that we don't know now. And that's whether there's going to be a salary cap in sports or not" ("Sports Reporters," ESPN, 10/2). FROM THE PLAYERS: Wayne Gretzky: "I don't see us playing hockey at Christmas time" ("Moneyline," CNN, 9/30). Gretzky: "The problem we're facing here is much bigger than hockey. It's a problem that faces sports in general" (ESPN, 9/30). Flyers Player Rep Mark Recchi: "We did everything possible to make the season go. It's obvious that Bettman had something else on his agenda. Basically, he's been lying to the association. He's got to take the blame if this goes a long time" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 10/1). NHLPA VP Kelly Miller: "If you have a McDonald's franchise and put it on the wrong street corner or manage it badly, it's not going to make a profit. ... I don't go along with the argument that sports is special" (WASH. POST, 10/1). FROM THE OWNERS: Flyers Owner Ed Snider: "They should come to the table willing, and say let's make a deal. They don't want to." Blues GM/coach Mike Keenan: "The solution is there. We are bright enough people to find a solution." Lightning GM Phil Esposito: "Sit in a room, lock the doors, slap each other, I don't care. Get it done" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 9/30). Later, Keenan called on Bettman and Goodenow to "stop the nonsense, set aside their egos, get on with the business at hand and get the job done" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/2). Flames Governor Harley Hotchkiss: "What's really at issue here is whether a city like Calgary can have an NHL team" (CALGARY HERALD, 10/1). Panthers President Bill Torrey: "No matter what everybody says about this being the wrong time, the cold, hard facts are the bottom line continues to get worse" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/1). CANADIAN ECONOMIC IMPACT: In Manitoba alone, a protracted lockout would kill C$705,000 a month in Sports Select bets, says Wester Canada Lottery Corp. spokesperson Marlene Gockel (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/1). Meanwhile, Canadian broadcasters "could be frozen out" of C$100M if there is prolonged NHL work stoppage. CBC officials are not "divulging estimates of the financial damage," but one CBC spokesperson said "it is going to be a serious number, no doubt" (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1).