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North American charities could lose "hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations as a result of a feud" between the NHL and the NHLPA over the annual SuperSkills Competition, according to Dave Fuller of the TORONTO SUN. The SUN reports that 26 SuperSkills events which produce finalists for the an All-Star weekend competition had to be cancelled for '96-97 after the NHLPA withdrew its support. League VP Brian Burke "promised" the All-Star Weekend will include a skills event, but "that's small consolation to Toronto charities which have reaped more than C$150,000 as a result of the SuperSkills competitions" at MLG. Leafs spokesperson Bob Stellick said the event drew 16,000 fans last year and is "one of our most important events." But fewer than 1,000 fans attended events in Miami, Denver and New Jersey last year, causing NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and players "to opt out." The Leafs received Goodenow's permission to run their own Skills event, but the league "is threatening to close them down." Burke said the league has yet to approve the event as talks are ongoing with the NHLPA to continue the competition (TORONTO SUN, 9/6). NHLPA'S VIEW: A union spokesperson told THE DAILY this morning that the NHLPA has questioned the "commitment and cooperation of some clubs" participating in the competition -- particularly in terms of scheduling, but added the union is willing to work with individual teams where the event has experienced success (THE DAILY).
The "operative issue" that MLB owners claim stands in the way of a labor deal with the players is the "second-tax free year," according to Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. But "the ease with which owners questioning a possible deal have moved from service time to a second tax-free year has raised the question" if the issue is a "genuine potential deal breaker," or a way for owners opposed to the deal to ruin it. The answer could "become clear" when baseball's ruling Executive Council meets in Chicago next Wednesday. The tax-free year would take affect in 2000 with a union option for 2001, which would mark the second year free of a luxury tax on player payrolls. According to one unidentified owner, some owners don't like the sun-setting of a tax for one year, "let alone two." The owner: "What kind of tax system comes and goes away? The salary cap doesn't disappear in the NBA. We could be back in the same mess and it might make it worse." Chass notes the union has given owners concessions for the option on the second tax-free year in 2001, but the question remains if enough owners, 21 are needed for ratification, "believe the exchange is worthwhile, or will the agreement's opponents do enough damage to undermine the deal" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/6). DOING SOMETHING RIGHT: A poll on ESPN's SportsZone asked fans if they like the MLB's wildcard system. Of respondents, 84% said yes, 16% no. When asked if they liked the wildcard when it was first introduced last year, 63% said yes, while 37% said no ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 9/5).