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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 41: THE RUMOR MILL CHURNS
Published November 10, 1994
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).