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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 66: IS IT DARKEST BEFORE A DEAL?
Published December 5, 1994
With NHL labor negotiations set to resume in Chicago today, salary arbitration, a rookie salary cap and free agency will again be "front and center." Talks broke off on Friday with both sides claiming there was little middle ground to discuss (CANADIAN PRESS/Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/5). NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke: "The calendar is coming at us like a freight train, and at some point it's not going to be possible to have a season. And hopefully that's going to add some pressure to the talks from both sides" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/2). WHAT'S THERE TO TALK ABOUT? In Toronto, Gare Joyce writes, "The players can take some hollow satisfaction from a single significant victory in these talks. They will likely walk away from these negotiations with unrestricted free agency at age 28." But "victories" on arbitration, two-way contracts and a rookie cap, the owners "have to feel satisfied with the direction of the talks. But is it the agreement they want?" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/5). In Philadelphia, Gary Miles notes that the league's top players are opposed to the owners' "franchise player" proposal -- reportedly agreed to by the union. "Whether this issue will splinter the union will be interesting to see in the critical days ahead" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/4). One "prominent" agent: "I hate the position Goodenow is in. If I were the owners, I'd jump at the offer the way it is now" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 12/5). WHAT'S TO BLAME FOR THE STALL? Many members of the NHL negotiating team accuse Goodenow of stalling intentionally. Some cite the Gretzky tour; others claim the union won't make any concessions "until the season is on the brink of being lost" (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR, 12/3). One NHL source: "Our feeling is that Goodenow has led Gretzky to understand that no deal would be made until the tour is completed" (Red Fisher, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 12/3). Another unnamed NHL official: "Do you think the companies sponsoring the tour would make the deals they made without getting that assurance? Or would the CBC send people over without the same assurance? They sought, and got, Goodenow's assurance there would be no deal until they got back" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/3). THE TAX IS BACK? Agent Neil Abbott "said that based on what he had heard, there was a reason the talks broke off so abruptly." Abbott: "The (salary) cap is back (on the table). That's what happened [Friday], although no one will say it. It was intimated to me that it was." However, sources on both sides denied the tax was discussed (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3). And the CANADIAN PRESS also reports the owners' plan "remained on the shelf" (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/3). Goodenow: "If, in fact, the tax does come out, it will be very difficult to get a deal and to have a season" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/2). ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT IT: During "Weekend Update" on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," David Spade offered his view -- which was unsympathetic to players in both baseball and hockey. Spade: "But, guys, I do feel sorry for you, you haven't been able to play your road games so that means for the last eight months you've had to have sex with your own wives, and nobody wants that" ("SNL," NBC, 12/3).