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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 77: SECRET TALKS CONTINUE
Published December 16, 1994
The "secret subcommittees" in the NHL labor dispute met yesterday for the second day in a row. One union exec: "Real cloak-and-dagger stuff." The representatives met at a secret location, and while the delegations were in contact with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow, the two principals were not involved. The NHL delegation was believed to include NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash and Maple Leafs President Cliff Fletcher, while the NHLPA sent attorneys John McCambridge and Bob Riley. "Some of the best- informed executives and agents were not briefed about the talks, suggesting an air of sensitivity and gravity to the issues being discussed" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/16). There were no official plans to resume full negotiations, although the CANADIAN PRESS is reporting that talks are planned for the weekend. Fletcher: "There will be more meetings" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/16). SMALL GROUPS, BIG TALKS: In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes, "If the two sides weren't making some progress on the sticky systemic issues -- everything from rookie salary caps to salary arbitration to free agency to the mother of them all, the payroll tax -- they wouldn't be getting back together. ... The lieutenants on both sides are skilled professionals and creative problem solvers. The urgency of the situation, along with the absence of two hard-line leaders, may be just what's needed to breathe some life into the talks" (TORONTO STAR, 12/16). One source told the CANADIAN PRESS: "If this thing is going to get done and the season is going to be saved, these small groups will have played a big part of the process" (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/16). DEAL IN THE WORKS? Several owners told THE SPORTING NEWS "that reintroducing the tax was a 'face-saving tactic to show small-market teams the league had not sold them out. But the charade was part of a natural process.' That's why the tax will disappear this week and the Edmontons and Winnipegs of the NHL will have to make it on their own. Seventy-five percent of the owners will not vote to cancel the season" (THE SPORTING NEWS/L.A. TIMES, 12/16). IF YOU'VE GOT THE YEN, THEY'VE GOT THE TIME: The TORONTO SUN reports that if the season is canceled, the next stop for Wayne Gretzky and his all-stars would be Japan. "The precise format has yet to be determined, but the financial backing has already been arranged -- and it is substantial," reports Al Strachan. Since the level of competition would not be the same as in Europe, the NHLPA would have to send two teams (TORONTO SUN, 12/16). THE "I" WATCHES AND WAITS: IHL Commissioner Bob Ufer said he is "unsure" whether he will extend his ban of IHL teams signing locked-out NHL players before it expires today. Ufer will make his decision after talking with Professional Hockey Players Association Exec Dir Larry Landon. Ufer: "It's a very sensitive issue because of the potential loss of jobs" (Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 12/16).