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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 33: NEW YEAR'S DEADLINE?
Published November 2, 1994
On ESPN Radio yesterday, NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke indicated that a major cancellation of games is coming. Burke was then asked if he agreed with those who say there is no sense in starting the season after Jan. 1: "That's pretty close to being accurate ... if we don't have a deal by that point in time, there is a risk ... a very real, substantial, significant risk that we won't have a hockey season." Burke said at least 50% of the 84 regular season games must be played ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/1). CP's Alan Adams writes, "A deal to celebrate New Year would allow the NHL to rejig its schedule to allow for a 45-game season and still finish in April." Mighty Ducks President Tony Tavares: "If you are not going to get in at least half the games, then why bother." Others are even more pessimistic. One unnamed GM: "We are about one month away from having a meltdown" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/2). SO, WHAT ARE THEY DOING ABOUT IT? One source familiar with the recent talks between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow characterized them as "beyond the term 'fruitless'" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/2). The secrecy "might indicate that they are intent on hammering out a deal rather than conducting a public-relations campaign. If you can adopt that, consider yourself an optimist" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/2). But some did see cause for optimism. Boston-based agent Steve Freyer: "The guy who normally tells me what's going on said he can't tell me what's going on. ... At least they're talking, and they're serious enough to have put on a mutual gag order." Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden: "The less people who aren't actually part of the actual negotiations know, the better. ... I hope this means something" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 11/2). ROOKIE CAP OFF THE TABLE? Burke said owners "will never yield on the issue of a luxury payroll tax even if the players agree to a rookie salary cap and a more limited system of salary arbitration." Burke: "If you've got gangrene in your hand, cutting off two fingers doesn't solve the problem." Writes Dave Fuller in this morning's TORONTO SUN, "A handful of players, frustrated by the impasse, were expected to press Goodenow on the rookie salary-cap issue, but there's no need now" (TORONTO SUN, 11/2). SOLIDARITY WATCH: A fax from NHL Senior VP & general Counsel Jeff Pash to all 26 clubs notes the union is suggesting owners "will cave in" if the lockout goes past January 1. Jets GM John Paddock calls that thinking "a foolish mistake": "There's no chance. Not one little bit." Meanwhile, the NHLPA's solidarity "should get a booster shot" in Toronto today from a day-long "informational meeting" expected to be attended by several hundred players (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/2). MIGHTY ANGRY DUCK: Tony Tavares was upset at the league's handling of the termination of the players' group health insurance coverage. Mighty Duck Tom Kurvers learned of the lapse upon taking his pregnant wife to the hospital after an auto accident. Tavares: "It was not one of the league's shining moments. I think it was mishandled and I let my feelings be known" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/2). REPLACEMENT PLAYERS: Whalers GM Jim Rutherford floated the idea of replacement players in '95-96 should the '94-95 season be canceled. The NHL's Burke would not say whether the league has discussed using replacement players. Burke: "I will say this, it's not something we're considering at this point in time" (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 11/2).