SBD/2/Leagues Governing Bodies

HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 63: LOOK WHO'S TALKING

     NHL owners and players resumed negotiations in Chicago
yesterday, with one insider describing the session as "good, not
great."  In this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, the CANADIAN
PRESS' Alan Adams reports on the state of talks on the top issues
at hand.  ROOKIE CAP:  The NHLPA dropped its ceiling for entry-
level salary restrictions from $1.5M to $1.25M.  The owners are
still in the neighborhood of $700,000.  ARBITRATION:  The NHL
wants to retain its proposal to make an arbitrator's decision
non-binding.  But the league did propose that a maximum of two
players be allowed to "walk away" -- become unrestricted free
agents if the team decides not to pay the salary determined by an
arbitrator.  The NHLPA wants arbitration to remain binding.  The
two sides have reportedly agreed that an unrestricted free
agent's salary cannot be used for comparison purposes in an
arbitration case.  FREE AGENCY:  Both sides have agreed to
unrestricted free agency at age 28, and the union is said to have
agreed to the NHL's "franchise player" proposal.  The owners want
each team's franchise player to be the highest paid player on the
team, while the union proposes that franchise players receive the
average of the top salaried players of each of the 26 teams --
about $3M a season.  LUXURY TAX:  The owners' tax plan was not on
the table yesterday (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2).  In New York,
Richard Sandomir reports that the owners' caps for rookies are
$700,000 for 1st round picks, $400,000 for 2nd, and $250,000 for
3rd.  On free agency, Sandomir reports the league wants to raise
the age-limit on unrestricted free agency to 31 (N.Y. TIMES,
12/2).  The union is also believed to be negotiating for
"increased benefits and a share of NHL licensing revenues, as
well as an increase in playoff award money" (Larry Brooks, N.Y.
POST, 12/2).
     WHAT TO EXPECT:  In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes, "The NHL
expects entry-level restrictions, modified arbitration and
elimination of Group One free agency from the players simply
because it believes that's what's required to help put the
league's economic house in order.  Now, the NHL is prepared to
trade unrestricted free agency for a tax.  The NHLPA isn't
biting, though it still wants and expects the new world of free
agency.  The crystal ball, fuzzy as it may be, suggests if the
improvements in free agency are less liberal -- say unrestricted
status at age 30 with or without a franchise-player clause -- the
impetus for the tax will be significantly reduced or eliminated"
(TORONTO STAR, 12/2).
     TAX PLAN ON ICE?  ESPN's Al Morganti reported the owners
"are willing to back off" of the luxury tax, saying he believes
they are unwilling to risk the a season "by forcing this luxury
tax down [the players'] throat"   ("SportsCenter," 12/1).  In New
York, Larry Brooks also reports that support for the tax has
"dwindled" among the NHL Board of Governors.  "But the league was
believed to be supporting a relatively benign tax in the rate of
5-to-10 percent on free agent signings" (N.Y. POST, 12/2).  But
in Boston, Stephen Harris reports that a "hard-line faction" of
about 10 teams (Bruins, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Panthers, Devils,
Canucks among others) have decided that the players' concessions
are insufficient and that the luxury tax should be brought back
to the table (BOSTON HERALD, 12/2).
     ALL-STARS LOSE:  Keith Olbermann, on Team Gretzky losing to
the IHL Vipers:  "If this is how they're going to settle the
lockout, the owners won" ("SportsCenter," 12/1).  Wayne Gretzky
wouldn't name names, but complained about efforts to "sabotage"
the team's tour.  Gretzky:  "CBC and ESPN have been kind enough
to step up to the plate and not worry about the pressure. ... But
I guess people aren't tired of watching bowling and pool on TV
yet" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 12/1).  Team Gretzky sported Coca-
Cola decals on their helmets, and L.A. Gear patches on their
NHLPA jerseys (THE DAILY).  Mike Barnett, agent to Gretzky and
Brett Hull, promised an expanded exhibition schedule if the
season is canceled:  "It would be of grandiose proportions,
managed by the players, on a world basis in scope" (Dave
Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/2).  CBC confirms that
Molson will be a "full sponsor" of the two telecasts of Team
Gretzky on December 3 & 10 (Ken McKee, TORONTO STAR, 12/2).
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