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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 68: "DOOM LOOMS"
Published December 7, 1994
"The warring sides in the NHL labor dispute have finally lurched to the precipice," write Damien Cox & Bob McKenzie in this morning's TORONTO STAR. Yesterday's "fruitless" session included the reintroduction of the payroll tax plan by the owners. But it appears the talks "might have stalled even before the thorny payroll tax issue returned to the equation" (TORONTO STAR, 12/7). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "We were simply too far apart to close the gaps, and the players told us that they had gone as far as they could. With or without the contribution plan, there was no basis for a deal" (USA TODAY, 12/7). THE 25-PERCENT GORILLA: The owners' tax proposal reportedly includes a 3% gate receipts tax levied against the top 16 revenue teams. The payroll tax (which would kick in during Year 2 of the CBA) would tax teams with payrolls over $18M at 0.45% for each $250,000 increment. The maximum rate of 25% would only be applied to teams at $30M or more (Cox & McKenzie, TORONTO STAR, 12/7). The players note the tax "is not on the excess amount, but on the entire payroll, which means the 25% could go as high as 60%" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/7). One NHLPA source: "The effective rate is 60 percent, not 25 percent. Why don't they just say it?" (Alan Adams, CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 12/7). NHLPA President Mike Gartner "said that if owners had come in at 25 percent, negotiations might have been possible. But he said the owners presented it only after the NHLPA made 'significant concessions'" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/7). In Washington, Len Hochberg notes the union had previously offered a 7% payroll tax. One union source: "That was under a different set of circumstances. We gave concessions all along [on arbitration, free agency and a rookie cap], then they brought back the tax" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/7). PLAYERS REAX: NHLPA VP Kelly Miller: "The way I look at it, I've already given them my keys, I've given them my wallet. I've given them my car. At some point, you've got to say, 'Hey, no, you can't have my kids and you can't have my wife'" (Mult., 12/7). Bruin Steve Leach: "I just hope the news out of Chicago is nothing more than (posturing)" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 12/7). Flyer Rod Brind'Amour: "It's going to get very ugly now, more than ever before. If we don't have a season, I don't know if we'll ever get back" (Gary Miles, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/7). MANAGEMENT REAX: Maple Leafs President & GM Cliff Fletcher: "It's probably the most disappointing day of my career. If it ends up that I was part of the process that results in hockey not being played for an entire season, it would be a tremendous black mark" (Mult., 12/7). Flyers Owner Ed Snider: "At this point, I do not care if we play this season or next season" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 12/7). Oilers Owner Peter Pocklington, on Monday's meeting: "We'll be seeing who is willing to let the season go. I am, and I think the majority are" (Mike Heika, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/7). Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow told the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS that the NHL should impose its system should the impasse continue: "Baseball can do it because of their U.S. antitrust exemption. But football has already done it. They imposed their system, and the jury in Minneapolis upheld their position and said the NFL could impose the cap. The players then came back and said maybe we should talk. If we have to do it, I believe we're in a position to do it" (Lisa Dillman, L.A. TIMES, 12/7). MONDAY'S MEETING: The NHL Board of Governors meet in New York on Monday, and no talks are scheduled until then. They could decide to cancel the entire season, or simply instruct Bettman to "make his best deal with what's currently on the table. Or they could set a 'drop dead' date and see how the players respond" (Mike Nadel, AP/ Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/7). Some sources on both sides expressed hope that there is still time to get a deal, "saying that one final blowup was almost expected before a resolution" (Lisa Dillman, L.A. TIMES, 12/7).