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ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "Home ice advantage to the league, the two sides agreed to meet at the NHL headquarters in New York. The next big bargaining issue: decaf or regular" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/3). NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow had "expressed reluctance" about New York and wanted to keep the talks in Toronto. But NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he didn't think Toronto "would be a good idea." One management source referred to "safety concerns" after player and fan threats: "Bettman is concerned about the people there" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/4). MAKE THE CALL: NHL VP & Dir of Hockey Operations Brian Burke: "Lock the doors, order the Chinese food. Nobody leaves until a deal's done. I'd love to do that" (Alan Adams, CANADIAN PRESS/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4). GRIDLOCK: While both sides publicly indicate a willingness to talk, "neither side is ready to make a deal on the level the other would require." One source close to many players: "The players won't accept a cap or a luxury tax. They'll talk about a payroll tax." But a management source says any new system would have to "have an impact on players' salaries" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/4). Oilers Player Rep Bill Ranford said that the players have asked Bettman "to put the salary-cap issue off to the side and start talking about some of the other issues, and Gary said he has no interest in talking about anything else but the salary cap at this point" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/3). NO SKATE RULE: The NHLPA had issued a "no pay, no practice" rule over the weekend closing all training camps. But yesterday, "the union pushed it a step further." Whalers Player Rep Pat Verbeek: "No NHL player will go on the ice for two weeks, not even to skate in his own backyard" (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/4). EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE? One source reports that there was "something less than unanimity" among NHL owners when the league opted for postponement. The source: "Some teams wanted the season to go ahead, but they were in the minority." Maple Leaf Gardens Dir Brian Bellmore and Penguins Owner Howard Baldwin were both critics (William Houston, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher reports the Leafs and the Red Wings "are among the seven teams within the minority who want peace made as quickly as possible so the games can go ahead." Canucks Owner Arthur Griffiths publicly backs Bettman, but he has also "expressed an interest to get this thing over with and get hockey on the ice" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/4). JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE: Some players argue that NHL Governors should join Bettman in the negotiations, claiming that when they negotiated for themselves - - led by the Blackhawks' Bill Wirtz and the Flyers' Ed Snider -- deals were made more quickly (Bill Beacon, CANADIAN PRESS/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 10/4). But Tony Gallagher reports Wirtz "is adamant the players be taught a lesson no matter what the cost" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/4). And Snider is quoted today as saying: "If the players really want to get a deal done, we can get it done in two weeks. If not, I'm willing to throw out the season" (Gary Miles, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/4).
As the NHL labor talks resume today, the league continues to "confront a pattern of stonewalling" from NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow, according to a report in this morning's N.Y. POST. Larry Brooks bases this conclusion on "financial documents and a year of correspondence between the NHL and the NHLPA." Among the findings: In conjunction with the union last Fall, the NHL developed a "comprehensive financial report" -- the Unified Report of Operation -- to provide accounting of all teams' expenses and revenues; the NHL reports an operating deficit of $32M for '92-93, the last season for which complete records are complied; the Unified Report was the result of a suggestion in a 9/30/93 correspondence from the union; repeated attempts from the NHL to open negotiations were rebuffed as long as the owners' proposal tied revenues to salaries; the NHLPA did not request partial financial information until August 31. Concludes the POST's Brooks, "If the pattern persists, if Goodenow's position remains intransigent, the 'postponement' will become a lockout, which might indeed last for the duration of the season" (N.Y. POST, 10/4). TRUTH OR DARE: In response to reports that most NHL clubs are losing money, William Houston cites "informed NHL observers" who say they are not accurate. "In terms of money in and money out, only two teams were in the red last year -- the Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers -- but in the case of Winnipeg, the city underwrites any loss incurred by the club." For example, Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. can report a '94 gross of over C$60M (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4). Capitals President Dick Patrick said the team lost $8M last year, with player salaries ("around $15 million") causing the bulk of the deficit. Union sources claim creative accounting, and cite '92 figures in which USAir Arena sky box and parking receipts were counted as "arena revenue," not "hockey revenue" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/4). CANADIAN PRESS' Alan Adams reports that, since the over $20M in economic rollbacks imposed in August by Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL owners have spent "more than 10 times that amount" on player salaries, including $70M for the '94-95 season alone (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4). NOT BUYIN' IT: Lightning Player Rep Brian Bradley: "You can't tell me that big corporations like the ones that have bought the Rangers are getting into this thing just so they can hang out with the guys and go to games. There's big money to be made in this league. ... And I think they're just trying to push the players down and keep them from getting any of it" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/4).
In Chicago, Terry Armour writes, "both parties in the major- league baseball fiasco agree on one thing: The game's image is in desperate need of enhancement." With that in mind, Acting Commissioner Bud Selig has given the Black United Fund of New York to go-ahead to put together a series of all-star games: two each in Chicago, New York and L.A. to help benefit the people of Rwanda. The games are tentatively scheduled for the end of the month, with a team of AL East all-stars playing a team of NL East all-stars in New York, Central all-stars facing off in Chicago and West all-stars playing in L.A. (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/4). Meanwhile, Nike announced that it would not sponsor a series of all-star baseball games to benefit youth sports. The objective was to raise awareness and money for youth sports programs. Officials at Nike said the "logistics involved are too complex to overcome" (THE DAILY). OTHER NEWS: Rep. Pat Williams (D-MT), chair of the House Committee on Education & Labor, said that if the strike is not settled by the time Congress reconvenes January 3, he will call more hearings. The House Judiciary Committee last week approved legislation that would have "partially removed the owners' antitrust exemption," but the effort to pass a similar bill in the Senate failed last Friday. No talks between the owners and players are scheduled for today. MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, who completed a 7-city tour to update his players, probably will meet with players in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic next week. Owners are expected to meet in Detroit during the week of October 16 to discuss how they will proceed next season (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/4). YANKEE STABILITY: In New York, Joel Sherman notes that "barring the unexpected," Yankee manager Buck Showalter "will do what no other Steinbrenner-reign manager has done -- begin a fourth straight season in the job. Of course, when the next season begins is uncertain" (N.Y. POST, 10/4).