SBD/29/Leagues Governing Bodies

HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 60: TICK, TICK, TICK ...

     "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).
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