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In the first face-to-face negotiations since September, acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told MLBPA negotiators the owners would remove their proposal of a salary-cap if the players would agree to a system that would give the owners a firm indication of what their labor costs would be. That echoed a position the owners have taken since the beginning of the labor dispute. But one who was in the room said that Selig's offer "was like starting over." Selig: "There at least was a feeling of what I call civility and sensitivity that didn't exist in some of the earlier meetings. Only time will tell, but it did exist today" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/11). MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza: "We're still far apart. But we're better off for having had this meeting" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/11). The talks was the first session mediated by William Usery. RAVITCH TAKES A STEP BACK: In L.A., Ross Newhan writes that the "only discernible change" in yesterday's talks was the appointment of Red Sox CEO John Harrington as chair of the owners negotiating committee, further "diminishing the presence" of MLB chief negotiator Richard Ravitch (L.A. TIMES, 11/11). According to participants in the meetings, Ravitch "didn't say a single word" during the joint session (WASHINGTON POST, 11/11). But a source familiar with the situation said that Harrington's appointment was "more cosmetic than substantive" (L.A. TIMES, 11/11). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "Late news from the meetings in Rye Brook -- a conclave of owners is meeting late into the night without Dick Ravitch" ("Sports Center," ESPN, 11/10). CORRECTION: WJR-Radio in Detroit withdrew their report from yesterday that baseball owners are considering using replacement players next year.
"There was movement on the NHL labor front yesterday, but not nearly enough to break up the logjam," according to Bob McKenzie in this morning's TORONTO STAR. In what NHLPA negotiating committee member Marty McSorley termed "significant concessions," the NHLPA reportedly offered to accept some entry- level salary limitations -- if the league drops its demand for a payroll tax. The union would agree to mandatory two-way contracts (one salary for NHL games, and another if rookies are sent to the minors) and no salary arbitration for first-year players. "The NHL party line, and it's doubtful it changed yesterday, is that entry-level restrictions alone are not nearly enough to provide a 'drag' on player salaries" (TORONTO STAR, 11/11). McSorley: "We made concessions without giving absolute numbers as to what people have to accept. And basically, it was just short of that" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/11). One league source said the players' offer "is not enough" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 11/11). "Depending on whom you talk to, the two sides are either making progress or are still miles apart" (Gary Miles, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/11). Sharks Player Rep Jeff Norton: "This is definitely as far as we're going to go" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/11). NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and McSorley "make it seem the union is willing to pinch at the front end -- the youngest talent -- but remains unwilling to allow more than a moderate salary taxation system that only nibbles at the concept of an overall cap. ... The hawks among the owners undoubtedly will want to keep the players out until they buy into some real form of a cap" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/11). The two sides are expected to talk by phone today, with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman delivering the owners' response. The next face-to- face negotiating session is not expected until next week. HIGH HOPES: At least two team execs "believe the players could be back on the ice preparing for the start of the season by the middle or the end of next week." But one union source said that Goodenow told some players after the meeting that "a return to the ice by next week was unrealistic" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/11). ESPN's Karl Ravech reports the NHL "is currently working on a 60 game interconference schedule, meaning each team would only play teams from the east and vice versa in the west." ESPN's Steve Levy notes that December 1 "is a day that could accommodate" the 60-game schedule ("Sports Center," 11/10). FOUR-ON-FOUR: The opening night of the NHLPA's charity tournament at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton drew 14,640 fans (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/11).