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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 98: WHAT WILL THE WEEKEND HOLD?
Published January 6, 1995
The NHL Board of Governors is "set to kill the players' latest contract proposal at their emergency meeting in new York tomorrow," according to Paul Hunter in this morning's TORONTO STAR. "But that doesn't necessarily mean the season will die with it. There is growing conjecture the owners, after announcing unanimous rejection of the union's proposal, will counter with a 'final' offer of their own" (TORONTO STAR, 1/6). ESPN's Bob Ley: "Free agency at age 30 could be the deal- breaker" ("SportsCenter," 1/5). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes that the "current feeling" is that the NHL will offer two counter-proposals: one with a tax, and one without. On the free agency age issue, Gallagher adds that if the players were to go to 31, "there is a much greater likelihood of acceptance, and you can almost write Saturday's anticipated counter-proposal on that right now." The owners also want a clause to reopen the five- year deal if salaries don't go down after two years. That should be included in the no-tax counter-proposal (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/6). In Washington, Dave Fay floats other scenarios, including: private talks today; more negotiations next week; a counter- proposal to the union even before Saturday's vote (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/6). One NHL Governor told the L.A. TIMES: "Monday night is the absolute deadline" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 1/6). OWNERS SURVEY: The TORONTO SUN polled NHL owners an found that opposition to the players' plan is running 20-6. FOR: Kings, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Blues, Maple Leafs. AGAINST: Ducks, Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Blackhawks, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers, Panthers, Whalers, Canadiens, Devils, Senators, Flyers, Nordiques, Sharks, Lightning, Canucks, Capitals, Jets (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 1/6). MANAGEMENT REAX: Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden sees the vote as "sink or swim": "If in a moment of brain-deadness we do accept their offer, the season swims. But if it's rejected, as I believe it will be, then I think the season's over" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/6). Lightning Governor David LeFevre: "In fairness to the fans, we have to end the negotiating process. Even if that means losing the season" (ST. PETE TIMES, 1/6). While Devils Owner John McMullen called the NHLPA offer a "disappointing document," Sabres Exec VP Gary Meehan noted that they have made "significant movement" and called it a "good framework" for further talks (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 1/6). Capitals GM David Poile: "The present system is better than what's on the table now" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 1/6). Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos: "I'll tell you my vote: See you around" (Viv Bernstein, DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/6). WHAT'S FACING THE COMMISSIONER? At least one Governor feels NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "will avoid putting his stamp of approval on the deal immediately, which could put his own job at risk if it is narrowly approved. Rather, Bettman will present the offer in a neutral fashion, and gauge the support it has" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/6). In Toronto, Scott Morrison writes, "The owners had best be prepared tomorrow to assemble a palatable counterproposal, one that offers a viable alternative for the players. And that is the daunting task facing Bettman, the true test to his leadership and his ability to make a deal" (TORONTO SUN, 1/6). In New York, Larry Brooks writes that the NHLPA gave Bettman a "slingshot" to fight off "an army of Board militants." One moderate Governor: "I don't understand what the players did this week. They're daring us to shut them down" (N.Y. POST, 1/6). BLIND OPTIMISM? Two agents expressed their opinion that the players' offer should be enough for the owners. Don Meehan: "I believe those three things [changes in arbitration, $900,000 rookie cap and elimination of Group I free agency] alone will bring about a major change in the marketplace -- what was wished for. And I haven't found a single general manager who disagrees" (Jim Proudfoot, TORONTO STAR, 1/6). Neil Abbott: "I think it's already done, and it'll just be a little media show (tomorrow). The owners have already talked and they're happy as pigs in bleep" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 1/6). REALITY BITES: The NHLPA's marketing committee spent yesterday "rounding up sponsors for a proposed players' league which could start as early as February" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 1/6).