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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 82: PLAYERS STAY ANTI-TAX
Published December 22, 1994
After a meeting of more than 200 members of the NHLPA, players emerged unanimous in their belief that there will be no deal unless the owners drop their luxury tax demand. IS THE TAX OFF THE TABLE? ESPN's Jimmy Roberts, noting reports that there have been discussions on a plan that does not include a tax: "It would be big news -- if it were true." NHLPA President Mike Gartner: "Everything that I've seen has a tax involved in it" ("SportsCenter," 12/21). Despite public denials from both sides, the reports of a no-tax plan continue this morning. But one league official confirmed to the N.Y. TIMES that such discussions "took place on a conceptual level without an official proposal being formulated." That official added that the league "remains willing to continue to discuss a settlement without a tax because the league thinks it is important 'not to draw a line in the sand and paint ourselves into corners'" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/22). Another management source told the BOSTON GLOBE that a plan without a tax "would've been discussed in purely hypothetical terms and likely would've been broached by those 'most moderate.'" Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden called the reports "absolute and total fiction" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/22). One NHL Governor puts odds of a deal at 50-50 and said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "has to come up with a proposal that does the same thing as a tax but can still be sold to a majority of the owners" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/22). WHAT IF IT IS? Sources told the TORONTO STAR "that the possibility of a deal without a tax exists if the union will make other concessions that will provide an appropriate 'drag' on salaries. Those concessions, the source cautioned, would have to be significant enough that the league's board of governors wouldn't be fractured by the those hardline governors still in search of a tax" (Cox & Hunter, TORONTO STAR, 12/22). The CANADIAN PRESS' Alan Adams reports that the players "are willing to move on salary arbitration as a way of saving the season." But NHLPA attorney Bob Riley said the union wouldn't surrender arbitration completely. Riley: "When we speak about the importance of the needs of our middle class, we are obviously speaking of the need of salary arbitration" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/22). NHLPA VP Ken Baumgartner: "We're prepared to negotiate but we're not willing to give away arbitration for a tax the owners never possessed but only asked for" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/22). THE OLD BAIT-AND-SWITCH? In New York, Larry Brooks writes the only question facing Bettman and the owners is: "How one- sided a victory do they need to score over the players in order to open the '1995-95' season?" It was clear from the union's meeting that the players are "willing to concede, concede, concede on virtually every freedom and systems issue imaginable in order to avoid negotiating a tax" (N.Y. POST, 12/22). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher asks, "Will [Bettman] try to grab just a little more early next week and then declare it enough and let the game proceed? Or, must he insist on the grand slam homer and take the game away?" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/22).