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The "stalemated" labor negotiations between MLB owners and the MLBPA will resume next week, according to MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza and management attorney Chuck O'Connor. According to Orza, the talks will include consideration of a recently proposed plan by which "money derived from a tax paid by the players based on their salaries would be added to the owners' revenue-sharing fund." That plan was discussed during a September 24 meeting between MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Under the plan discussed by the two, additional money would be contributed to a central fund by the union, possibly from the union's licensing fund. There would be no salary cap, salary arbitration would be eliminated, and players would be given earlier free agency (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 10/5). CENTER OF ATTENTION: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck notes that the union's interest in Angelos' plan puts Angelos in a "very uncomfortable position, and one that he strongly refused to comment upon yesterday. He already was at odds with many of the other owners. He does not want to give the appearance that he is in league with the union" (Baltimore SUN, 10/5). Thomas Boswell writes that owners upset at Angelos for meeting with Fehr "may not be so mad when they hear what Angelos accomplished. The union is close to approving an Angelos notion that would be the players' first significant concession in this labor war. ... The owners could use the cash to help bribe poor teams into changing their votes on the strike" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/5). FREEZE: The owners have asked players to delay the start of free-agent filing until November 30 and for an immediate 45-day freeze on signings. Under the current system, free agent filing begins the day after the World Series or October 15 (Mult., 10/5). The union probably will reject the proposal, "figuring a freeze would be far too great an advantage strategically for the clubs with no real advantage to the players" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/5). MITCHELL: Retiring Sen. Majority Leader George Mitchell said he will soon be ready to meet with MLB owners looking for a new commissioner (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/5).
TOP TICKET: The latest TEAM MARKETING REPORT shows hockey to have the hjghest average ticket price ($33.66), compared to $31.05 for the NFL, $27.12 for the NBA and $10.45 for MLB. TEAM MARKETING REPORT's Alan Friedman: "One reason [NHL] teams can charge so much is that they have a very loyal and intense following. The NHL is in a better situation than the other sports to absorb an interruption like this because it doesn't rely on the casual fan" (KNIGHT-RIDDER/TRIBUNE BUSINESS NEWS, 10/5). NHL LOSSES CHALLENGED: NHLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler challenged the figures in the Uniform Report of Operations that put league losses at around $32M for '92-93. Kessler said the figures "did not include franchise fees, adjustments for recent huge increased values of franchises, adjustments for owners' salaries and private expenses and adjustments for creative financing by teams that also own the team, arena or the station or network that televises the team's games" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/5). WHO'S LOSING? If the $32M figure for '92-93 "is to be believed," the Whalers accounted for 1/4 of the loss. Also, the Whalers lost $14M in '93-94 and are projected to lose $8-10M this year (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/5). Winnipeg Jets Owner Barry Shekarow: "We will lose less money by not playing than playing" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/5). In New York, Joe LaPointe calls on the owners to make public more detailed financial data than they have. LaPointe's column runs next to a chart profiling the owners and their franchises' values (N.Y. TIMES, 10/5). SAVE THE SMALL MARKETS: Larry Brooks writes the NHL's general proposal "makes sense" and that it's "vital for the league's unique character that as many teams as possible survive in Canada even if that means the average player salary reaches just $775,000 and not $900,000 in the next three years" (N.Y. POST, 10/5). Jim Proudfoot writes that the NHL could forego $200-300M in lost expansion fees if troubled franchises move to new cities (TORONTO STAR, 10/5).
NHL owners offered a new proposal to the NHLPA yesterday, "even as they toughened their negotiating stance by telling injured players they won't be paid during the work stoppage." NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agreed not to comment publicly on the new offer (Ron Rapoport, AP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5). ESPN's Bob Ley: "Effectively at this point, a press blackout" (SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/4). The "brevity" at the post-meeting news conferences "could be viewed as a positive sign, if not for any bargaining progress then at least for the relationship between the two lead negotiators" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/5). Goodenow "tipped his hand. He doesn't like this NHL offer any more than he likes any others" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 10/5). Canadiens President Ronald Corey cited the length of time spent on the new proposal and said the players "showed flexibility" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/5). But Former NHLPA Pres. Doug Wilson, a member of the union negotiating team, "hinted that elements of the plan still would be viewed as a salary cap by players": "It would be fair to say the proposal sticks to their philosophy" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/5). FEW SPECIFICS: The NHL's previous proposal contained a luxury tax on payrolls that exceed an average up to a maximum of 125%, a percentage the NHLPA rejects. "Neither side was saying anything about the specifics of the new NHL offer, either on or off the record. But one of the NHL people involved in the meeting confirmed the 125% figure" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 10/5). One NHL "insider": "[The players] were told by two big- market teams that 'We will never share our gate receipts.'" The NHLPA has proposed a 5.5% tax on all gate receipts and salaries as a way of revenue sharing (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 10/5). "BIG DAY": Today's "is almost certainly the crucial negotiating session to salvage any hope of an 84-game season this year" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 10/5). ESPN's Al Morganti: "Wednesday will be a big day" ("SportsCenter," 10/4). Al Strachan notes that Bettman said play could start on October 15 if the talks were progressing well. "The end is certainly not in sight" (TORONTO SUN, 10/5). "The sides may be far, far apart on the issues, but they're talking. So given Bettman's rather broad choice of words, might there not be hope?" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 10/5). "GOOD COP, BAD COP": In Washington, Dave Fay writes the decision not to pay injured players "baffled observers. Instead of a move to bring the two sides closer; the policy change seemed designed to open the gulf even wider" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/5). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "The NHL has now played good cop and bad cop" ("SportsCenter," 10/4). READING TEA-LEAVES: Devils Owner John McMullen, a "leading hawk" who joined the talks with three other team reps yesterday, later cited hockey's "tremendous upside" and said that he was confident of a compromise. Al Strachan notes, "That means the owners realize that if they do make some concessions to the players, they think they'll be able to recoup them" (TORONTO SUN, 10/5). McMullen "sounded quite upbeat" (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/5). NEW FACES AT THE TABLE: Bruins President/GM Harry Sinden, "hockey's premier hard-line negotiator," was a "surprise addition" to the NHL's negotiating team. The "new look" was a response to statements by NHLPA President Mike Gartner last week, asking why owners and Governors had not been included. But according to management, Goodenow had declined the offer. Bettman: "I had said previously that we had always told the players that we would be happy to bring owners in at any time; all they had to do was request it. This was not requested, but I figured, 'What the heck.'" Yesterday's league reps were Bettman, NHL VP of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, NHL VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, McMullen, Sinden, Corey and Penguins Owner Howard Baldwin (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/5). Bob McKenzie asks, "With Sinden and McMullen there, the only question worth asking is: Couldn't Rush Limbaugh make it? ... The new-and- improved Team Bettman lineup is there as a public relations function." Bettman "looks a lot more fortified with hard-liners McMullen and Sinden on one side, peace-loving Baldwin on the other and Corey there to supply the French sound bytes" (TORONTO STAR, 10/5).
In an "exclusive" report this morning, Filip Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS reports that "NBA owners are expected to take a secret vote today at their Board of Governors meeting in New York which could authorize the lockout of NBA players before their first paychecks on Nov. 15." The league "would not confirm there would be any sort of vote on collective bargaining at today's session..., but the official agenda calls for a 'discussion' of" the collective bargaining agreement. NBA Commissioner David Stern "has already slapped a gag order on owners," and will impose a $1M fine for any leaks. Bondy: "Such an action, once unthinkable in the user-friendly NBA, is an indication of how times, and attitudes, have changed" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/5). NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION: On last night's "SportsCenter," Jackie MacMullan said a number of unnamed owners that she has spoken with "believe a lockout has become a reality." MacMullan: "If a lockout is a reality, then Charles Grantham, the Executive Director of the Players Association, may be forced to consider decertifying the union and then take the NBA to court over the antitrust laws, much in the way Gene Upshaw did in the NFL" (ESPN, 10/4). LOOKING AHEAD: Publicly, both the league and union are cautiously optimistic. Grantham: "I fully expect our talks to be adversarial, because they're being pulled by the environment of pro sports today. But we've always been different in the NBA. Over the course of three contracts, there's been no work stoppage" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/5). NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said the owners are "unified": "We want to make a deal, and all of our efforts are in that direction" (David DuPree, USA TODAY, 10/5). LOOKING NORTH: Separately today, the Board of Governors is expected to decide which divisions the Raptors and Grizzlies will play in during '95-96. According to this morning's TORONTO SUN, "it has become increasingly clear" the Raptors will recommend board that they play in the Central, while the Grizzlies "will almost certainly" go to the Midwest. Raptors VP Tom Mayenknect: "Given the balanced schedule, it does not take anything away from fans to be in one or another. We were originally leaning to the Atlantic, but in recent week's we've come to see as many advantages in the (Central). Whichever way it falls, we'll be happy campers" (Craig Daniels, TORONTO SUN, 10/5). GROWLS FROM THE WEST: In this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, Neil Campbell, writing from Vancouver, criticizes the NBA for imposing a season-ticket mandate on the Raptors and Grizzlies. Campbell: "To ask any expansion team to sell 15,000 season-tickets virtually a year in advance of their first game -- and almost certainly four or five years before said team will be any good -- is the height of arrogance" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5).