SBD/16/Leagues Governing Bodies

NHL IN VANCOUVER: BETTMAN HAILED, BUT CHALLENGES AHEAD

          NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is profiled by Helene
     Elliott in the L.A. TIMES.  The NHL "differs greatly from
     the enterprise Bettman inherited" in '93 and the fact that
     Bettman "has wrought so many changes is a tribute to his
     business acumen."  Elliott: "But growth and change have
     spawned new problems for a league that still lacks the wide
     acceptance of baseball, basketball and football."  Bettman:
     "We've been able to do things to, hopefully, create more
     interest in the game, and we're trying to eliminate
     distractions (such as) work stoppages, franchises in
     trouble."  Bettman said that he "isn't concerned" with the
     current decline in attendance, but next season will start a
     week to 10 days later "to capitalize on the NHL's pattern of
     drawing better later in the season" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).
          LEGAL THREAT? With the NHL's All-Star Weekend starting
     today, "it seems the league is far stronger than it was
     before Bettman arrived" in '93, according Iain MacIntyre of
     the VANCOUVER SUN.  But "how Bettman and his office handle
     the current problems" -- "especially" fallout from former
     NHLPA Exec Dir Alan Eagleson's admission of guilt on fraud
     and theft charges and the decrease in scoring this year --
     "will be crucial in determining if his next five years are
     as good as first five."  Bettman, on the Eagleson affair:
     "The sooner we can get it behind us, the better.  Hopefully
     the sentencing represents the closure of the chapter."   But
     MacIntyre wrote that Eagleson's admission of guilt "has only
     strengthened the resolve of former players who feel they
     were cheated."  One suit claims the league and union
     "colluded to hold down player salaries" between '75 and '93. 
     Twenty-one clubs are named as defendants "and the suit has
     the potential to cost the NHL millions, if not hundreds of
     millions."   Bettman: "From a civil standpoint, as a league
     we're going to have to deal with it. ... But our counsel has
     looked at it and advised me there should be nothing to it." 
     Bettman added that he is not "overly concerned" about the
     drop in scoring, which is down 9% from '96 (SUN, 1/14).
          TEAMS: The league has altered its All-Star format to
     feature North America vs. the World teams, but in S.F., Ross
     McKeon wrote that five teams will have no player reps at the
     game, including the Sharks.  McKeon: "Considering the NHL
     ranks last in popularity and exposure in a four-horse pro
     sports race, it's not a good idea to snub markets."  NHL VP/
     Communications Arthur Pincus: "It was apparent with the new
     format it would be virtually impossible to have every team
     represented" (Ross McKeon, S.F. EXAMINER, 1/14).
          WEEKEND UPDATE: This evening, Canada will play the U.S.
     in an exhibition women's game (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/16).
     ...Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, will be
     honored during the weekend (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/16)....USA
     TODAY features a 12-page supplement on the All-Star Weekend. 
     Sponsors include Philips Electronics' Norelco, Pinnacle,
     IBM, Chrysler's The New Dodge and Sheraton (THE DAILY). 

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