SBD/5/Leagues Governing Bodies

HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 97: OWNERS TO VOTE SATURDAY

     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).
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