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MLB owners, led by Red Sox CEO John Harrington, will propose a revenue or payroll tax system to the union when the talks resume in Washington on Thursday. "The shift ... marks management's first change in strategy" since their salary cap proposal of June 14. Harrington noted that "a tax concept can look like a salary cap" and is still intended to control labor costs. Harrington: "All payrolls would be taxed at a low percentage" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/15). MLB General Counsel Gene Orza: "It doesn't make me more pessimistic or optimistic. I just want to see it." Unlike the union's September 8 proposal suggesting a tax on the top 16 teams, Harrington said owners feel "some other rationale" should determine the level at which payrolls are taxed: "We're going to try to marry the best parts of a luxury tax with a general payroll tax" (AP/CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/15). FLICKERING HOPE: According to this morning's WASHINGTON POST, teams would be taxed "substantially" on payroll money above a predetermined level, which in turn would be used to subsidize small market teams. Sources close to the situation say "concerned" owners who called management leaders yesterday to ask why the salary cap had been removed, were "assured that the in- the-works proposal will have a mechanism for containing players' salaries." It "remains unclear" whether this offer will move the groups "substantially" closer, but any "hope" for a settlement depends on whether special mediator Bill Usery can get the two sides to "begin negotiating on the particulars" of a taxation system (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/15).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow dined together last night in Toronto -- no word on what was discussed -- and the two will attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies today. While there is no negotiating session scheduled for today, Bettman and NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke will brief the league's 26 general managers on a reported new proposal. According to the TORONTO STAR's Bob McKenzie, "The new owner proposal will reportedly center on entry-level restrictions and salary arbitration. Specifically, it will put some teeth -- big, sharp ones, no doubt -- into the players' entry-level proposals that were described by various management types as 'toothless'" (TORONTO STAR, 11/15). SOBERING THOUGHTS: Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden: "It really makes me sick because if through our stupidity, all of us, the season goes down the drain, I don't see how you're going to save next season" (AP/BOSTON HERALD, 11/15). ....In Washington, Dave Fay writes that "even the most optimistic observer" believes any deal will take two weeks of constant negotiation, moving the calendar to December 1. A three-week exhibition season would leave a December 26 or January 1 start date, meaning that a 50- game season "could be squeezed in but just barely." One union official: "It's the owners who face a deadline, not us" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/15)....Whalers Player Rep Pat Verbeek is ready to leave for Europe. He is awaiting offers from teams in Switzerland, Germany and France (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/15). According to the NHLPA, only the Bruins' Ted Donato is the only union rep to head to Eurpoe thus far. WESTERN ROUND-UP: In this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL, John Helyar examines the financial plight of Western Canada's franchises, focusing on the Flames. Helyar reports, "Even if the owners win concessions, Canada's small-market teams may have lost their grip on the fans. In Calgary, the Flames are now viewed less as icon and more as ice-biz" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/15)....According to the annual report from Northwest Sports, the parent company of the Canucks, the team made an after-tax profit of $921,341 on revenues of $50,378,819 in '93-94 (VANCOUVER SUN, 11/15).