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The baseball labor negotiations adjourned Saturday "with a glimmer of hope," as owners will prepare a new proposal to be offered on Thursday in Washington, DC. Representatives of both sides met on Saturday for only about 15 minutes, but the principals departed "expressing renewed hope that a settlement is at least possible" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/13). Word of a new proposal, after two-and-a-half days of discussions led by mediator William Usery in Rye Brook, NY, "is the first tangible sign of progress in the stalled labor talks in months" (Steve Zipay, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 11/13). Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who is heading the owners' bargaining team: "It is fair to say that this weekend was mutually productive. We've listened to what the players have said, and I think we're aware of their concerns to a greater degree" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 11/13). Usery: "Both sides have been dealing in good faith" (N.Y. POST, 11/12). But MLBPA Exec. Dir. Donald Fehr remained cautious: "We'll just have to wait and see what happens Thursday. We'll be there" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/13). Braves President Stan Kasten said of the meetings scheduled for this week: "The understanding is that we will not leave until we have a deal" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/14). THE PROPOSAL: According to Sunday's N.Y. TIMES, the owners had a proposal ready to submit on Friday, but Usery convinced them to hold off, "fearing the proposal, retaining the [salary] cap concept, would be counterproductive." Murray Chass writes that the new proposal will "come from the owners' desire to position themselves with a more realistic proposal to implement unilaterally if and when -- sometime next month -- they declare an impasse in the negotiations" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/13). Although "sources" said the cap might be removed from the new deal, Harrington would not confirm that (Steve Zipay, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 11/13). But Hal Bodley writes that "owners will scrap the salary cap and replace it" with a "luxury tax." However, "if the tax is too high, the union will reject the proposal because it would restrict spending" (USA TODAY, 11/14). One "prominent baseball person" expected the owners to make a luxury-tax proposal, and believed the owners now favored a negotiated settlement based around a taxation system rather than the salary cap (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/13). WINTER MEETINGS: With general managers beginning their annual meetings today in Phoenix, Peter Gammons writes that "there is a growing rift between the majority of general managers, who have to run the baseball operations and the owners and lawyers who have messed things up." Discussions at the meetings will revolve around "downsizing payrolls" because of the losses of the strike and the "huge loss in national TV dollars" (Peter Gammons, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/13).
"To the players, it was a 'significant' concession. To the owners, it was nothing," according to Damien Cox in Saturday's TORONTO STAR. On Thursday, the NHLPA had offered a proposal "initially portrayed as a comprehensive scheme that would control entry-level player salaries through a variety of methods. As it turned out, the proposal contained concepts, but no hard numbers." One league official told the CANADIAN PRESS the offer was "the most insignificant concession in the history of labor negotiations" (TORONTO STAR, 11/12). One GM: "I thought we had a deal in the works. Now I'm convinced we won't have a season. This thing has no teeth, no bite" (Jim Smith, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 11/12). NHLPA VP Marty McSorley, on an ownership rejection of the players' offer: "It would mean that there is no desire whatsoever for compromising. It's an attempt for absolute control" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/12). THE LEAGUE'S OFFICIAL RESPONSE: A statement was released on Friday by NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash: "The NHL has not been offered a rookie cap. Rather, the union has made some proposals relating to entry-level players, which are being considered as the negotiating process continues" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/12). WHAT ARE THEY AFTER? In Toronto, Gare Joyce writes, "The players are willing to commit to a financial hit to get the game going again. ... But the league sounds as if it wants not just a quick fix but a far-reaching one to boot" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/12). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes Bettman and NHL owners want a "grand slam": "The owners won't say it, but they must relish the union's softening. Undoubtedly, they'll keep pushing Bettman to get more, bargain for a real rookie cap and an overall salary cap. That's why their response on Friday was only a desire to keep talking at the table" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/13). THIS WEEK: Sources say the NHL is preparing a counter-offer for tomorrow or Wednesday, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow are in Toronto for Hall of Fame ceremonies (CP/Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/13). DEADLINE TIME? This morning, Dupont reports there could be a "significant change" in the NHLPA's strategy: the possibility that the union "might pick a date in the near future and insist on a contract settlement -- effectively a drop-dead date" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/14). PLAYERS TALK TOURNEY: The NHLPA is considering several "major arenas" across North America for an international tournament this winter if the lockout continues. Arenas mentioned: The Palace at Auburn Hills, the Rosemont Horizon, and sites in Minnesota, Hamilton and Saskatoon. Palace/NBA Pistons President Tom Wilson: "We'd be very interested." NHLPA execs say the tournament could begin in late December or early January, after Wayne Gretzky and other stars finish their planned tour of Europe (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/13). Gretzky's agent, Mike Barnett, has "hit a few snags" in organizing the European tour, with available arenas (7,000 or more) the biggest problem. Barnett expects a 5-city tour from December 1-12 (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/13). The Hamilton tourney raised $500,000 for Ronald McDonald Charities of Canada and $200,000 for minor league hockey (Mult., 11/14). QUOTE-BOARD: Montreal writer Jeff Blair on the 4-on-4 tourney: "It was no worse than your average all-star game with better goaltending" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/13). Flyers GM Bobby Clarke, a former NHLPA President: "Read Marvin Miller's book and you'll know what Bob Goodenow is doing. ... If players start thinking management is the enemy, then we've got big problems" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/13).