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SBD/5/Leagues Governing Bodies
HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 97: OWNERS TO VOTE SATURDAY
Published January 5, 1995
The NHL Board of Governors will vote on Saturday on whether to accept the latest contract offer from the NHLPA. Acceptance of the proposal would mean that a 50-game season would begin on January 16. In Toronto, Paul Hunter outlines three potential scenarios: 1) The owners accept -- a "longshot"; 2) The owners reject and present the union with a "final" counter-offer; 3) The owners reject and negotiations continue. It was not known whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "supported or rejected the union's latest proposal, but his reaction will be crucial." If Bettman approves the deal, a simple 14-vote majority is needed from the Board. If he rejects the deal, 20 votes would be necessary to ratify (TORONTO STAR, 1/5). DETAILS: Since both sides continued to observe a news blackout, there was no official release on the details of the proposal. But nearly all reports this morning note that the offer does not include a luxury tax. In Toronto, David Shoalts reports that the players made a concession on free agency -- agreeing to 30 as the eligibility age for unrestricted free agency (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/5). On arbitration, the CP's Alan Adams reports that the players are offering to allow walkaway rights -- by which a team is not bound to an arbitrator's decision. Arbitration would be available to players at age 24 or with five years experience (Mult., 1/5). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher adds that there is something "new and decidedly innovative" in the offer -- reportedly a mechanism which would kick in changes in the deal if salaries go up or down radically or players begin to "move around at a certain rate" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/5). PESSIMISM DEPT.: "Preliminary indications are that it doesn't look good for a settlement" (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/5). One GM said the offer is "not enough." Another GM: "This won't create the drag we need" (CANADIAN PRESS/Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/5). One NHL "insider": "It doesn't appear that very much has changed from their earlier proposals. I don't expect the governors will approve it" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/5). In Toronto, Dave Fuller calls passage a "remote possibility since [the offer] doesn't include a luxury tax" (TORONTO SUN, 1/5). One management source: "I don't think we're going to have a deal" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 1/5). OPTIMISM DEPT.: The GLOBE & MAIL cites several NHL sources who said they "could not see how the owners would turn it down" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/5). "The NHL seemed yesterday to be a league that was getting ready to play more than it was bracing for cancellation" (Frank Brown, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/5). THE STAKES FOR THE COMMISSIONER: In Toronto, Al Strachan lays out the task facing Commissioner Bettman. "If he took the deal to the owners right now, he could almost certainly get the 50% support he needs for approval. But he probably wouldn't get much more. Looking ahead past the return of the game, Bettman is concerned for his own job security if he can't raise that percentage appreciably. It's one thing to get a new collective bargaining agreement with a 14-12 majority. It's another thing to try to run a league with 12 owners holding a grudge" (TORONTO SUN, 1/5). One "moderate" NHL Governor told the N.Y. POST: "It's all in how he sells it. ... If he comes in and recommends a deal without a payroll tax; if he wants to position it, 'Look, we have enough,' it will pass" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 1/5). WILL NO MEAN NO? "Many believed a rejection by the owners Saturday won't necessarily spell the end of the season" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 1/5). Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden: "I am pretty certain this is it, but you never know. Maybe they have another final offer" (Alan Adams, CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 1/5). Should the owners reject the players' proposal, talks could continue with the prospect of saving a 45- or 40-game season. "However, Bettman must be careful not to be perceived as the boy who cried wolf too many times" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/5).