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Representatives of the 28 MLB teams met outside Chicago yesterday and held a "wide-ranging discussion" on how to proceed in labor negotiations -- with "renewing their pursuit for a salary cap" among the possibilities. After a six-hour meeting in Itasca, IL, owners acknowledged that there was "sentiment" for dropping their most recent payroll tax proposal in favor of another salary cap plan. Red Sox CEO John Harrington: "You still have to think about achieving the goals you started out to achieve. ... Two other sports have caps that work reasonably well." In Washington, Mark Maske writes that "a return by the owners to the pursuit of a salary cap would diminish greatly" the chance of a settlement (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11). The owners "do not seem to have a clear cut plan," according to Murray Chass in today's N.Y. TIMES. The owners are likely to change their bargaining team, and sources on the players side have heard AL President Gene Budig and NL President Len Coleman might join the talks when they resume. An owners' committee -- chaired by Rusty Rose of Texas and joined by White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Blue Jays President Paul Beeston, Braves President Stan Kasten, Phillies VP Dave Montgomery and Cubs President Andy MacPhail -- is working on the "plans to pursue with the union" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/11). SECRET PEACE TALKS: Sources among the players and owners told the L.A. TIMES there have been secret talks between both sides to ensure the '95 season will be played to completion (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 5/11). THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: A person close to Morgan, Lewis & Brockius' Rob Manfred has said that Manfred "has no plans" to assume the role of the owners' chief labor negotiator, but that Manfred "will aid in the transition to a new legal team" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 5/11).
NBA Commissioner David Stern, in Toronto to announce the Canadian national TV deal with CTV, said an agreement has been reached to allow the Raptors and the Grizzlies "to make the balance" of their $125M franchise fees in the absence of a CBA with the league's players. According to Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN, "Stern stopped short of calling the deal a guarantee, but, ultimately, that's what it amounts to." The NBA is requiring each expansion team to come up with just over $50M of their franchise fees in cash, with the rest in secured debt. The problem was, however, that no bank would secure the debt without a CBA and a guarantee that next season would be played. So, Daniels reports, "the NBA has essentially stepped in and agreed to assume both teams' debt obligations until the new CBA comes into effect. Once that happens, the debt will be transferred to each team's respective bank." One league source said the NBA is essentially "acting as a bank until the CBA is signed" (TORONTO SUN, 5/11).
The "attendance drop" that hit the NHL's Canadian teams after the lockout "has persisted into the playoffs," according to an analysis in today's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. Attendance for the Flames' 1st-round game against the Sharks at the Saddledome drew only 15,624, with Tuesday's Game 2 drawing 16,389. Capacity is 20,230. In Quebec, the Nordiques have drawn 14,360 and 14,178 -- more than 1,000 seats below the 15,399 capacity. Nordiques officials blame a late schedule change and the local broadcast of the game. Nordiques Dir of Media Relations Jean Martineau: "We work with individual season-ticket subscribers rather than companies. So when a home game is on TV, it really hurts us" (Shoalts and Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/11).NHL PLAYOFF ATTENDANCETEAMGAME 1GAME 2CAPACITY% CAPACITY
Flames15,62416,38920,23079.1 Penguins15,91015,07917,18190.1 Nordiques14,36014,17815,39992.7 Blackhawks19,04219,01720,50092.8 Blues18,78818,87619,26097.8 Bruins14,44814,44814,448100 Flyers17,38017,38017,380100 Red Wings19,87519,87519,275103.1