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The MLBPA said Monday that it would "penalize any agent who represents a replacement player." MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza: "What level of penalty is up to the [executive board]. Anything up to decertification is among the penalties at the board's disposal" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 1/10). The union is acting just as clubs are beginning to call agents seeking players to fill their rosters. Agent Craig Fenech: "I've had some clubs ask me if I have any guys who want to come in as replacement players. But I told them we're not in that business and we're not going to be. ... The retired players whom I have spoken to have no intention of doing it" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). Red Sox CEO John Harrington: "If the replacement players do have agents, it could be a problem. But in all probability, the replacement players won't have agents" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/10). The union's penalties for agents will be announced today. OTHER NEWS: Several of the GMs on the operations committee that is shaping the rules for using replacements will meet today with management lawyers in Chicago. Meanwhile, MLB attorney Chuck O'Connor sent a letter to MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr saying the clubs will "resist any effort to have unsigned players declared free agents" (L.A. TIMES, 1/10). O'Connor: "The clubs are quite confident ... that their implementation of revised terms and conditions is entirely lawful. The legal grounds for that implementation, of course, include the union's steadfast refusal to bargain collectively over wages in violation of ... the National Labor Relations Act" (AP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). NOTHING TO FEHR: Fehr was in San Juan, PR, yesterday meeting with Latin American players. While there, he "knocked down rumors" that Latin players would break ranks and cross the picket line. Blue Jay Juan Guzman: "I've been to every meeting and I know the Latin players and we're still together. Everybody's still together." Fehr's three stops have so far drawn more player participation than his last tour in September, 1994. His next stop will be tomorrow in Phoenix (AP/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/10). MORE ON REPLACEMENTS: According to a USA TODAY survey, 39% of minor league free agents said they would "definitely or probably" sign on as replacement players. The survey projects that 163 minor-leaguers could sign, filling 6 1/2 of the 28 MLB team rosters. 700 replacement players are needed. Of the 125 minor-leaguers surveyed, 25 said they would definitely play, 24 would probably play, 28 were not sure, 20 would probably not and 28 definitely would not play (Mel Antonen, USA TODAY, 1/10). ESPN's Keith Olbermann reported that the Blue Jays will be holding replacement player camps in Southern CA this week ("SportsCenter," 1/9).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and top lieutenants on both sides met for over twelve hours yesterday in a Manhattan hotel in an attempt to hammer out a deal to save the season. Both sides are facing the league-imposed deadline of noon today. THE LAUNDRY LIST: The CANADIAN PRESS reports that, as of Midnight EST, agreements had been reached on salary arbitration, the rookie salary cap and the ground-rules for reopening the deal. Still to be resolved, the age a player can be an unrestricted free agent -- the owners want 32, the players 30 -- and the age at which a player can be drafted -- the owners want 20, the players 19 (Alan Adams, CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 1/10). In L.A., Helene Elliott reports the union had won concessions from the NHL on reopening, the number of times a team can "walk away" from an arbitration decision and on the rookie cap (L.A. TIMES, 1/10). There were reports that management was "reconsidering some of its concessions as the talks carried on into the morning hours" (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 1/10). The AP reports that Bettman pulled back on some issues in an attempt to get the union to move on free agency. NHL General Counsel Jeff Pash reportedly began calling player agents "asking them to apply pressure on Goodenow to get things back on track" (Mike Nadel, AP, 1/10). On unrestricted free agency, the two sides "were working on a formula that would bring years of service into the equation, thus allowing veteran NHLers to gain unrestricted free agency before age 32." According to Lance Hornby of the TORONTO SUN, the question of pay for this season "a thorny issue that could prod Bettman to extend today's deadline" (TORONTO SUN, 1/10). In Chicago, Brian Hanley notes the possibility that Goodenow was holding out on retroactive pay to secure some type of playoff compensation (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/10). Asked whether the owners would swap two years of free agency for two years in the draft, one NHL Governor said: "That was spoken about. I don't think we will." In New York, Mark Everson reports the owners would appear to be open to free agency at 31 if the players agree to a 20-year-old draft (N.Y. POST, 1/10). THE DEADLINE: In the 6pm EST "SportsCenter," ESPN hockey analyst Al Morganti said of today's noon deadline: "I do not think this line can be extended, this is a hard deadline. This is not a line in the sand, this line is in cement." But on the 11:30pm EST edition, Morganti reconsidered: "Maybe it's wet cement. Obviously if they've got this thing going and it comes to noon, they can push it an hour or two to see if they can get the whole thing done" ("SportsCenter," 1/9). In Vancouver, Mike Beamish compares the NHL's deadlines to a local bus: "Miss it and there'll be another along in 15 minutes" (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/10). WINNERS AND LOSERS: In Boston, Stephen Harris calls the prospective deal an "overwhelming victory for ownership" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/10). Kevin Paul Dupont writes, "In effect, the players agreed to trade the prospect of a cap for a financial straitjacket" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/10). In Vancouver, Kent Gilchrist writes the owners "now have utter and complete control of their player costs for the next five years. Assuming there is no long- term negative effect at the turnstiles by the fans, the moon isn't too far away to consider what the revenue growth might be for the owners" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/10). In New York, Mike Lupica quotes one unnamed Ranger player who broke his stick over a locker after a skating session: "Why don't we admit what we all know? We got our butts kicked." Lupica writes that Goodenow "was out of his weight class and never seemed to have much of a plan, except to wait. ... To suggest that Goodenow has somehow gotten the best of Gary Bettman is to ignore the facts. Goodenow looks like a general left standing when his whole platoon is gone" (NEWSDAY, 1/10). Flyers Owner Ed Snider on Bettman: "He has managed through all of this chaos to maintain and keep the utmost respect of all 26 owners. I find it remarkable. He's a great leader" (Gary Miles, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/10). Still, Jim Proudfoot writes that Saturday's Board of Governors vote identified the "dissidents" among the ownership. "That indicates how deep the rift really is and what a delicate balancing act awaits" Bettman (TORONTO STAR, 1/10). DOOMSDAY SCENARIOS: Montreal, Chicago, Boston and Detroit are all said to favor the implementation of a salary cap if the season is cancelled (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/10). Attorneys have told Bettman that the NHL "would be legally entitled" to implement a salary cap (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 1/10). In the event of no season, the NHLPA has a plan for a nine- or 10-team players league and a 30-game season. CTV would broadcast and there are corporate sponsors willing to finance the teams for $1M apiece (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10).