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Ownership sources confirmed that if a settlement can not be reached, MLB owners plan to declare an impasse in negotiations and unilaterally impose a proposal that includes a cap on players salaries by December 19. The two sides return to the bargaining table today and negotiations are scheduled to run through the weekend. MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said he does not expect a breakthrough: "I have no reason ... to believe their position has changed at all" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/10). The union is not expected to make any new proposals. Management negotiators have developed a revised proposal but will see how talks develop before deciding whether to present it at these sessions (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/10). REPLACEMENT PLAYERS: A senior exec with the Detroit Red Wings has told WJR-Radio in Detroit that baseball owners will open spring training in 1995 with replacement players, and plan to lure fans back to ballparks by cutting ticket prices in half. According to the source, owners believe that large numbers of striking players will break ranks and cross picket lines either during spring training, or early in the '95 season. The Red Wings are owned by Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Tigers (WJR Radio, 11/9). REAX TO OWNERS AD: The players yesterday were not pleased with the owners full-page advertisement in yesterday's editions of USA TODAY, which restated the owners' concerns about the game's economic health. Fehr: "The ad was timed and phrased to be provocative. It's a clear indication that they are thumbing their nose at the world and the mediator. If you take it at face value, there's no reason to talk to them." But MLB Acting Commissioner Bud Selig maintained that the letter merely restated the owners position and was not designed to be "confrontational" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 11/10).
The Republican takeover of Congress figures to have an effect on the congressional dispute over whether to repeal baseball's antitrust exemption. Many GOP legislators have gone on the record and said they would support any attempts to take away the exemption. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is likely to be more sympathetic to any future moves on the players' behalf than the outgoing chair, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE). And on the House side, Rep. Jim Bunning (R-KY) -- a former ballplayer -- is expected to use his new clout to be an even stronger advocate for the players than when his party was in the minority. A senior staffer at the Senate Judiciary Committee predicts that the GOP takeover favors the players: "If they see that the strike is still going on or the owners are threatening a lockout from spring training, I think Congress will very much say that ... this is ridiculous" (Larry Tye, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10).
Negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA are set to resume today, the first time the two sides have met twice in one week since October 4-5. Reports vary widely this morning on concessions that could be made by either side, and whether there should be cause for optimism. LET'S OPEN ON A POSITIVE NOTE: NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke was quoted on ESPN Radio yesterday as saying, "I am optimistic that a deal can be worked out to save the season" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/10). ESPN's Jack Edwards reports an unnamed management source told the AP that "a lot hinges" on today's meeting, and if the "tone continues to improve" through next week, games could be played by December 1. Edwards did add, "Others aren't so optimistic" ("SportsCenter," 11/9). One management source "said that if negotiators make significant progress today, they will meet throughout the weekend in hopes of producing an agreement next week" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/10). JUST ADD COLD WATER: According to the CANADIAN PRESS, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow denied making any specific proposals: "Since the league rejected our last proposal on Oct. 10, we have not made another proposal -- not at all" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10). One "ranking league official": "I was pretty excited about things getting done, the reports I heard, the papers I've been reading, a seven-hour meeting, ESPN saying good things -- everything was very positive. Turns out it was a joke. ... They were together for four hours tops, and that might be stretching it. Nothing got done" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/10). Agent Steve Freyer: "From speaking with the people who were involved, there certainly were no concessions specifically made on either side" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 11/10). WHOLE LOTTA SOFTENIN' GOIN' ON? In Boston, Nancy Marrapese cites sources who say the union "has softened its stance and could be willing to accept a deal that includes the elimination of Group 1 free agency, a far more restrictive salary arbitration system and a rookie salary cap. In return, the players would want their 1994-95 salaries paid in full" -- no matter how many games are canceled (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10). The AP was also reporting that the players had "softened their stance" on a rookie cap. Burke, who suggested such a move could "jump-start" the talks: "I wish that were the case" (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/10). In Washington, Len Hochberg reports that the league is "softening its stance" on arbitration. According to a fax sent to the 26 teams Monday night, "the league would agree to a arbitration for 'a group of players in a modified form to be negotiated'" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/10). In L.A., Helene Elliott reports, "if pushed," the league would drop its payroll tax for a rookie cap. "Instead of a hard salary cap, the NHL has proposed a compensation pool that would be divided among all clubs to pay rookies each season. Clubs that exceed their allotment, as they might to pay an exceptional rookie, would pay a penalty. Salaries in players' second and third seasons would follow a predetermined formula and could be supplemented by bonuses" (L.A. TIMES, 11/10). Steve Freyer said the NHLPA might accept a rookie cap, but added, "Is it a deal-maker? No." Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden concurs: "It's a very important piece, but certainly secondary to the primary problem of tying salaries to revenues." Sinden said it was "ridiculous" for the players to think they might be paid for a full season (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 11/10). UNITED HOCKEY LEAGUE? Edmonton-based agent Rich Winter leads a group that is seeking to form a new league if this season is canceled. Winter: "This may be less pie-in-the-sky than people think." Winter said there is interest among owners of IHL franchises "in large, modern buildings in large cities" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/10). TEAM NOTES: WJR-Radio in Detroit cited a Red Wings official who said the team was "penciled in" for a $3M loss for the '94-95 regular season (WJR, 11/9)....In Dallas-Ft. Worth, Mike Heika writes the Stars "are skating on relatively thin ice" compared to "established franchises." Stars President Jim Lites: "There's a definite reality starting to overcome us. ... It's hard to get the momentum back" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/10)....The K.C. Blades and Minnesota Moose played an IHL game in San Jose. The 17,190-seat arena "was slightly more than half full." The game was for the benefit of Sharks season-ticket holders, with no tickets sold (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/10).
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, NHL officials and linesmen are in the process of considering a league offer that would see them earn 72.5% of their annual salaries even if they don't officiate a single game this season. The NHL has told officials that they will also receive credit for seniority as if they had actually been working. The NHLOA is expected to ratify the CBA by early next week (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 11/10).