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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 59: PICKING THROUGH LEFTOVERS
Published November 28, 1994
After a somewhat optimistic outlook entering the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, the NHL labor talks ended the weekend with a shortened session on Saturday and no communication between the two sides on Sunday. NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow has spent the past few days sounding out players and agents on three main issues -- free agency, salary arbitration and a rookie cap. League negotiatiors "have left it up to the [NHLPA] to make the next move." The two sides are expected to resume talks later this week, probably back in Boston (Alan Adams, CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/28). ROOKIE CAP: NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister confirmed that a rookie salary cap had been agreed to in principle, but that Goodenow was working on the monetary "parameters" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 11/27). The two sides are far apart on the limits. The owners want the rookie average at about $750,000, but the union would prefer a level closer to $1.5M (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/27). RETURN OF THE TAX: Union officials have threatened to walk away if the owners bring back their luxury tax. But a management source says the players are bluffing: "They know it is coming, so why don't they leave now" (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25). While some owners are "willing to discard" the payroll tax in return for other salary drags, sources say the players, "if threatened with no season, would accept a payroll tax that peaks at 30% if it's coupled with a gate tax" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/27). "Simply put, [the tax] is going to allow for or rule against commencement of the 1994-95 season" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 11/26). SCENARIOS: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont predicts that, following a Goodenow rejection of any CBA with a cap/tax included, Bettman will let the owners vote on the package "as it exists without the cap (rookie cap, more liberal free agency, changes in arbitration, "franchise" players). With a non- recommendation from Bettman, the deal would need a 3/4 vote for approval -- which is not likely. "The pressure would then be cranked high on Goodenow. ... Unless the hawks suddenly become cooing doves, ultimately it will be the players left to decide whether they want to come in and accept the wage-and-benefits package -- cap included -- that owners will offer. Stalemate? Perhaps. But there could be a key middle ground." Dupont floats the idea of a mechanism built in the new CBA that could trigger a luxury tax at a certain inflationary percentage (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/27). SOLIDARITY CHECK -- PLAYERS: Some NHL sources say the likely deal "probably won't be much different from one the [NHLPA] could have made in August." One NHL exec: "Now (Goodenow) is going to have to explain to the players why they had to take two months off work to get it" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/26). "The players haven't cracked, but at least they've bent" (Red Fisher, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/26). Sources say the NHLPA is "not a model of solidarity at the moment." There were reports over the weekend of a split "over whether the negotiatiors gave up too much to get a tentative agreement on a rookie salary cap" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/28). One player, reporting that calls to the union weren't returned last week: "For the first time, I actually started to wonder, you know, about Bob (Goodenow). What was he doing? And I know I wasn't alone. ... It was a pretty good test of our faith in him. But we just had to keep it. I mean, we knew he wouldn't sell us down the river. At least, we were pretty sure" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/27). SOLIDARITY CHECK -- OWNERS: In separate interviews, Penguins Owner Harold Baldwin and Flyers Owner Ed Snider showed two vastly different attitudes towards a settlement. Baldwin: "I feel very strongly we should play over the holidays, and I'll have a much different attitude if we don't play." Snider: "I don't care if we never play. I don't want to come out of a painful lockout and not have anything to show for it" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/27). SAME BAT TIME: Maple Leafs President & GM Cliff Fletcher, leaving Boston on Saturday: "See you at the next secret location" (Mike Shalin, BOSTON HERALD, 11/27).