SBD/4/Leagues Governing Bodies

HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 96: THIRD DAY'S A CHARM?

     For the first time since the NHL imposed its lockout on
October 1, negotiators for the league's owners and players met
for three consecutive days.  "The pessimistic mood that was
created by four hours of reportedly unproductive talks on Sunday
has, at least in some minds, been overtaken by more than 18 hours
of negotiations over the past two days," writes Damien Cox in
this morning's TORONTO STAR.  No new talks have been scheduled,
but there is a possibility that lower-level negotiations will
continue (TORONTO STAR, 1/4).  The WASHINGTON POST quotes NHL VP
of Public Relations Arthur Pincus saying that discussions will
continue today.  NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister added there
has been nothing set up between NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but "at some point, to get a deal,
those two guys would have to meet" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON
POST, 1/4).  One "angry" GM:  "I don't think Goodenow and Bettman
will meet again until it's done and it's time to shake hands"
(Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 1/4).
     OWNERS MEETING?  The L.A. TIMES is reporting that the NHL
Board of Governors will hold a conference call today, "but it was
not known whether the purpose was to poll the governors about a
potential deal or merely to update them" (Helene Elliott, L.A.
TIMES, 1/4).
     MORE FROM THE RUMOR MILL:  With both sides maintaining a
secrecy agreement, speculation on what issues are under
discussion varies.  Maple Leafs President Cliff Fletcher, who was
involved in the earlier round of lower-level talks:  "There are
only six guys who know what is going on -- the four guys in the
room along with Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman.  The rest is all
speculation and it's all over the map" (CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 1/4).
The BOSTON GLOBE reports the league has dropped its demand for a
tax should the players "capitulate" on three other significant
issues:  a rookie cap no higher than $800,000, elimination of all
"meaningful" salary arbitration, and unrestricted free agency
only at age 32 or 33.  According to a source, it is now up to
Goodenow to respond (Dupont & Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/4).
Also in Boston, Bruins President Harry Sinden and team player rep
Dave Reid denied a Tuesday report by sports-radio station WEEI
that the lockout "appeared over" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD,
1/4).  The Toronto GLOBE & MAIL reports discussions focus on
Group II free agents (age 24 or five years exp.) The owners want
to retain the right-to-match and allow only two Group II players
per team to apply for arbitration per year.  That arbitration
would be non-binding.  In exchange, the players would be eligible
for unrestricted free agency at age 30 (David Shoalts, Toronto
GLOBE & MAIL, 1/4).
     WHAT TO DO?  In New York, Larry Brooks writes that it is
Bettman's "responsibility" as commissioner to explain to the
Board of Governors that a deal without a tax is still a victory
for the owners.  One GM, noting that the players have made
concessions "pretty much straight down the line":  "The problem
is now the hockey people have to be given the opportunity to
explain that to the owners and I'm not so sure that's going to be
done."  But while management appears fixated on the tax, one
"prominent" agent said:  "It isn't the league office; it's the
owners" (N.Y. POST, 1/4).  One league source told the HARTFORD
COURANT:  "If there is no payroll tax, then no free agency and
concessions on salary arbitration are the only thing left.  What
leverage do the players have then?  That's what I think [NHL
Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian] Burke and [NHL General
Counsel Jeff] Pash were trying to explain to them the other day.
The players would be better off with some sort of tax plan" (Jeff
Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/4).
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