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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 69: ALL TALK, NO ACTION
Published December 8, 1994
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow are expected to speak by phone today, although no further action on a new collective bargaining agreement is expected until after the NHL Board of Governors meets on Monday in New York (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/8). BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING: While some teams "are worried the 'hawks' could win control of the board" and cancel the season if the players don't agree to a deal with a tax, it is "more likely" the Board will set a deadline, possibly December 17 (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/8). In Tampa, Roy Cummings reports the Lightning is among a group of about 11 teams that will vote to continue talks. The Blues, Rangers, Penguins and Kings "are also said to be in favor of playing" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/8). ESPN's Al Morganti said, because they suspect Goodenow "will wait until the last minute," owners will set a deadline sometime between December 15-19 ("SportsCenter," 12/7). "If the tax alone is blocking a deal," owners are "likely to urge Bettman to drop it or reduce it again" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 12/8). BEHIND THE TAX: The union stressed that the owners' tax would be levied against a team's entire payroll if that team goes above the $18M trigger. In a fax to union members, Goodenow stated the proposal has a top marginal rate of 81% (CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 12/8). NHLPA economist Jerry Haussman of MIT called it "essentially the same" as the NHL's 122% proposal (Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 12/8). But Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR asks: "Has the issue become more emotional that financial?" Under the plan, 20 of 26 teams would be under the trigger; three of the six teams over $18M would likely have their penalty offset by the 3% gate receipts tax; the worst hit team, the Blues, would pay about $1.8M; the trigger would increase by $1M every year (TORONTO STAR, 12/8). In Winnipeg, Ed Willes writes, "All our taxes should be this bad" (WINNIPEG SUN, 12/8). SHOCK, DISMAY, HORROR: ESPN's Al Morganti calls the union's complaint about the return of the owners' tax plan "choreographed": "If it wasn't on the table right in front of them, it was a 600-pound gorilla that the league's been carrying around for the past two months. If you couldn't see it, you should have been able to smell it or hear it" ("SportsCenter," 12/7). In fact, Larry Brooks reports that Goodenow admitted to Bettman that he was expecting to receive the tax proposal (N.Y. POST, 12/8). WHAT'S NEXT? "The next step would appear obvious: Remove the tax from the table and reopen discussions, with the focus on the systemic issue over which the players believe they differ most, salary arbitration" (Scott Morrison, TORONTO SUN, 12/8). "The next move is to reduce the peak tax rate from 25% to 20% and lower the age for unrestricted free agency to 29 or 30" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 12/8). One ownership source: "If they'd give up arbitration for the first four years of a player's career, we might not need the tax" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/8). FEARLESS LEADERS: In New York, Larry Brooks accuses Goodenow of being a "union-buster": "Never have we witnessed the boss of a Players' Association who flees from, rather than seeks, more liberal free agency; who gives away years of freedom in a desperate attempt to hold onto the status quo; who presides over a union where a minority of skilled players get employment while the majority of the rank-and-file sit home, idle and unpaid" (N.Y. POST, 12/8). In Washington, Tony Kornheiser predicts Bettman will be a casualty of the post-lockout world (WASHINGTON POST, 12/8). SOLIDARITY WATCH: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes only three or four players are urging Goodenow to make a deal "at any cost." Of the stars on the Gretzky tour, "other than to mention that Goodenow might have done a better job with public opinion, all are solidly onside" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/8). ESPN's Al Morganti believes Goodenow has "a bit of a problem." Because the union has proposed some sort of tax in the past, Goodenow must now "decide exactly what sort of last moment concession he will ask for from the league. And he has to decide if the philosophy [of no tax] is enough to lose an entire season over" ("SportsCenter," 12/7).