SBD/Issue 56/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Bettman Hopes To Begin CBA Talks Soon, Confident Of Teams

While "many consider a work stoppage inevitable" after the '03-04 season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he "would like to begin talks with [NHLPA Exec Dir] Bob Goodenow soon," according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. Bettman: "My preference would be to sit down and reason with the players association sooner rather than later, to talk about the issues and solve the problems in a way that works for everybody. Nobody's looking for a war. What we're looking for is a framework that lets hockey at the NHL level thrive." Bettman said that his relationship with Goodenow "is actually good," but he did "acknowledge fundamental ideological differences about what the game might need and wouldn't commit to opening negotiations before 2004," when the CBA expires. Bettman: "If we're going to do something early, both parties have to be involved. The union's got to want to do it. They're within their legal rights to let the [CBA] run out" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/2). In N.Y., Larry Brooks reported the NHL BOG will meet today in N.Y., and the NHLPA will "convene a meeting of high-profile agents" tomorrow in Toronto. Brooks: "The two sides may meet together three months into the 2004-2005 lockout everyone in hockey anticipates and seems willing to do little to avoid" (N.Y. POST, 12/2).

ON TOUR IN CANADA: In Edmonton, Robin Brownlee reported Bettman, on a tour of the league's Canadian cities last week, "delivered nothing in the way of news about additional financial help for small-market teams" before '04. Brownlee: "Specifically, there won't be any adjustment in the NHL's currency equalization program to reflect a Canadian dollar that's sagged considerably since the program began six years ago." Bettman told the ownership group to "hang on until 2004," when the "real financial adjustment comes" (EDMONTON SUN, 12/2). Also in Edmonton, Mark Spector wrote Bettman is "still a relentless doctor of positive NHL spin who will see your negative and raise you two positives, and in the end never quite get around to showing you all five of his cards. ... You can believe Gary Bettman if you want, or you can call him a New York lawyer. But judge him by his actions, and if you are an Oilers fan, he's done right by you so far" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 12/2). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski writes while Bettman has "lobbied for Canadian teams to partake in a share of betting revenues from Sports Select since the teams help generate that money," there is "talk around the league that the NHL has every right to pursue legal action for that money." Bettman would "only say that any action by the NHL would require the [NHLPA] to be on board." Bettman: "I'd rather do it on an amicable basis. We're not looking to pick a fight ... unless we have to" (TORONTO STAR, 12/3).

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