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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 60: TICK, TICK, TICK ...
Published November 29, 1994
"The fact 'urgent' negotiations between the owners and players aren't expected to resume before Thursday -- the first day of December -- doesn't leave much room for optimism," writes Dave Fuller in this morning's TORONTO SUN. NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow spent yesterday on the phone with as many as 50 player reps and their assistants, "formulating what one agent described as 'final positions' on three key issues that could make or break a contract agreement." While some believe the season can still be saved, one source "close to the players" is not so sure: "I think [the season's] done. ... My worry is that the owners are expecting certain things and they're going to be disappointed. The thing is, where do the players go from here? There's no Plan B in place for them. It's fine if they've got something set up, but they've got nothing. This is going to change the NHL for good" (TORONTO SUN, 11/29). No talks were scheduled, although it is believed both sides will meet again later this week. LOOKING FOR SIGNS: Also in Toronto, David Shoalts sees "increasing signs" that the NHL could be back before Christmas: 1) Contact between the league and its officials regarding their physical condition; and, 2) Reports of a message from Goodenow to Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Marty McSorley that they had to be back from their planned European tour by December 15. League officials would not confirm the officials rumor. But, Goodenow flatly denied any contact with Gretzky or other Team Gretzky members. One source close to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on the contact between NHL Dir of Officiating Bryan Lewis and the officials: "That's only to make sure our ducks are all in a row in the sense that (the labor impasse) could be settled by a certain date." NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus would only say, "We believe there's every reason to make a deal quickly, but right now that's not about to happen." Goodenow said "there's no date" to start the season (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/29). ASK THE FRANCHISE: Mark Messier spoke out against the owners' proposed free agency plan, whereby free agency would be granted to all players over 28 years old or with eight years experience, with the exception of a team-designated "franchise" player. Messier: "That's just another way of controlling salaries. And every team has a salary structure, whereby the franchise player is supposed to be the top-paid guy. Everyone else would be told they have to accept less than him, and he can't go to the market to get what he should." The NHLPA is said to be polling other top players on the idea (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 11/29). WINGS WON'T FLY THE COOP: Red Wings Paul Coffey, Sergei Federov and Steve Yzerman, all members of Team Gretzky, will not play in the December 1 exhibition against the IHL Detroit Vipers at the Palace at Auburn Hills, MI. Yzerman says it's "out of respect" for Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch. Coffey: "You've got to draw the line somewhere." The NHLPA reportedly "wasn't pleased" with the trio's decision (Keith Gave, DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/26)....Several players from the Whalers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils, as well as players with New England roots, are planning a charity exhibition to benefit the Special Olympics for December 18 at New Haven Coliseum (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/29).