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As part of an examination of the labor situations in the major sports leagues, the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES' Brian Hanley offers an update on the ongoing meetings between representatives of the NHL and NHLPA regarding the final details on the new collective bargaining agreement. Lawyers from both sides have been meeting on an average of three times a week for the past three weeks with the hope, according to NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus, that the work will be done by the end of April. Pincus: "There are a lot of issues that each side has a position on, and they're in the process of checking things off, and it is a pretty substantial checklist. Such things as discipline policy, drug and alcohol policy. ... We might not have a signed document by the end of the month, but we hope to have all issues agreed upon and have letters of agreement by then." Both Pincus and NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister denied rumors that the tentative agreement, signed on January 13, was in danger. Of the issues, the "most contentious" are those concerning the marketing and TV money expected from NHL participation in the '98 Olympics as well as scheduling for the Games (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/20). BETTMAN PROFILE: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is the subject of a WASHINGTON POST profile. Bettman, on charges he doesn't understand the game: "I go to tons of games and I watch tons of games on television. And I can sit with the general managers in the rules discussion, listen, understand and -- oh, my God -- even participate. Does that mean I could be a general manager? Absolutely not. Does that mean I could coach? Absolutely not. Does that mean I could play? Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely not. But I wasn't hired to do any of those three things. Can I make a deal? Can I handle the league in a labor dispute? Can I make a TV deal? Can I get a P.R. department to function in ways that it hasn't before? You make your own judgment. Those are the things I have to do" (Dave Sell, WASHINGTON POST, 4/20).
Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley "emphasized the urgency of hiring a commissioner but said Wednesday that he won't be among those urging that acting Commissioner Bud Selig be retained," according to today's L.A. TIMES. Asked if he would support Selig for full-time commissioner, O'Malley "paused, asked for the question to be repeated and then slowly answered." His response: "My answer is no. Two letters. One word. No." O'Malley said he would withhold further comment until a collective bargaining agreement is in place (Bob Nightengale, L.A. TIMES, 4/20). SPEAKING OF WHICH: The need for a long-term settlement is the focus of a CHICAGO SUN-TIMES examination of the labor situations in the NBA, NHL and MLB. Dave Van Dyck writes, "If nothing else, the seemingly endless baseball war should have served as a reminder to other pro sports of how not to conduct negotiations" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/20). NL President Leonard Coleman was interviewed during last night's Reds-Phillies game on ESPN. Coleman, on the need for a long-term labor agreement: "It is of critical importance. Fans ought to be able to enjoy the game and not have to sit back and worry about management labor issues. The game has already had enough disruptions, so hopefully we can get something long term so the fans can look forward to worrying about batting averages and ERA's rather than what's happening in the negotiating room" (ESPN, 4/19).
Robert Kheel, the lead management negotiator in labor talks with locked out umpires, said "he expects the two sides to inch closer toward a deal within the next day or so," according to today's WASHINGTON POST. But Kheel, who exchanged proposals yesterday with MLBUA General Counsel Richie Phillips, is unsure whether a deal can be done to have the umpires ready for Opening Day. Terms of the new proposals were not disclosed. Kheel also said that umpires will not be allowed to return without a new CBA unless they take a no-strike pledge (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 4/20). Phillips said they will not offer such a pledge "under any circumstances" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 4/20). Phillips, on management's proposal: "I'd have to characterize [it] as an offer that was intended to stimulate negotiations." But A management source "said there had been less progress than Phillips indicated" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/20).