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NHL NEWS BLACKOUT LEAVES PRESS GUESSING ON NEW PROPOSAL
Published October 5, 1994
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).