SBD/6/Leagues Governing Bodies

HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 67: WILL THE TAX BE BACK TODAY?

     NHL owners and players "made strides in agreeing on a rookie
salary cap and free agency yesterday, but their effort may be in
vain because the controversial luxury tax may come into play
today," according to Alan Adams of the CANADIAN PRESS.  One
management source, on the tax:  "They'll be seeing it tomorrow."
ROOKIE CAP:  According to sources, both sides are considering a
$1M cap on entry-level salaries, with the cap indexed to the
annual rate of salary escalation.  The owners reportedly also
want to increase the draft age to 20.  FREE AGENCY:  The owners
dropped their franchise player demand, but upped the age of
unrestricted free agents from 28 to 30 (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL,
12/6).  On the older free agent provision, Joe Lapointe of the
N.Y. TIMES notes that since "few players that age are highly-paid
stars, the union is skeptical about the value of this proposal."
ARBITRATION:  The players "forfeited arbitration rights for
entry-level players, and they have agreed that contracts of
players who sign as free agents shall not be used for comparison
purposes in other arbitrations.  But management wants more" (Joe
Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/6).
     REAX:  In Toronto, Dave Fuller calls the owners' proposal a
"major break -- although not necessarily a breakthrough" (TORONTO
SUN, 12/6).  NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow:  "We've been
negotiating for weeks as if there is no tax.  If there is, it
will be very difficult to get an agreement" (Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 12/6).   NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:  "Saying it's up to
them or it's up to us -- that's not constructive.  Together,
we've got to figure out a way through this" ("SportsCenter,"
ESPN, 12/5).
     TEAM GRETZKY:  Goodenow denied that Wayne Gretzky's all-star
tour of Europe would have any bearing on the negotiations.
Several quotes attributed to unnamed NHL sources over the weekend
charged that Goodenow had agreed to make no deal until the
players return on December 12.  Goodenow:  "I'd rather not
comment on it because it's so baseless."  Bettman also denied
that the league had tried to stop the tour:  "We don't love it,
but we didn't do anything to stop it" (Robert Markus, CHICAGO
TRIBUNE, 12/6).  In Toronto, Al Strachan writes that the players
on Gretzky's team are "quickly finding out what the NHL knew all
along:  that Europe is wealthy, hockey hungry and on the verge of
a communications explosion. ... The last thing [the owners]
wanted was a bunch of high-profile players finding out just how
much they're worth" (TORONTO SUN, 12/6).
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