BETTMAN SETS DEADLINE FOR NHL TALKS: NO PACT, NO PLAY
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declared that the season will
be postponed if a new collective bargaining agreement with the
NHLPA is not in place when the regular season is scheduled to
start on October 1. Although he refused to label the move a
lockout, Bettman insisted that NHL owners will not allow any
games to be played without an agreement. Bettman: "The absence
of a collective bargaining agreement leaves us no choice."
Bettman confirmed he and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow will meet in
Toronto on Monday and said that a settlement then "won't be
impossible" (Mult., 9/23).
FACE-OFF: Bettman admitted that the announcement of a
possible postponement was due to the lack of progress in
negotiations with Goodenow: "At some point, if this goes too
long, we will have to look at shortening the season or do other
things. ... If we work very hard, there is enough time to make a
deal. It will be difficult, it will be arduous but it will not
be impossible. But as time slips away, it gets harder and
harder." Bettman added: "What I've learned from baseball is that
you can turn a season into a complete disaster if you open one
without a collective agreement" (THE DAILY). Sources said that
Bettman was prepared to "pull the plug" on training camps last
Monday, but decided to give negotiations more time (Alan Adams,
VANCOUVER SUN, 9/23). Bettman contended that a full season could
still be played even if a postponement occurs (David Shoalts,
Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/23).
RESPONSE: Goodenow "made it clear" the players consider
Bettman's declaration a lockout and said that the action is
"strictly a pressure play" to scare the players into making
concessions: "The lockout or postponement will not move the
players or affect the players." Goodenow reiterated that the
players have no intention of striking: "I have reminded the
league that we played all last season without a contract and we
had playoffs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/22). Stephen Brunt writes, "For
Bob Goodenow and company, this is going to a tough one to win"
(GLOBE & MAIL, 9/23).
CAN SETTLEMENT BE FOUND? Bettman on the NHLPA offer: "I
actually think the fact they came to the table and proposed a tax
was constructive. If I had to characterize the differences, they
have called our tax a luxury tax; they have called their own tax
a nuisance tax. The issue is going to be whether or not we can
bridge that gap and get to a tax that is neither a luxury nor a
nuisance that we can both live with" (Al Strachan, TORONTO SUN,
9/22). Bettman added: "The system we have now needs to be
modified, sometimes drastically" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/22).
LONG WORK STOPPAGE SEEN: ESPN's Al Morganti: "If it lasts
much past a week or two, I'd say you're looking at a long one"
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/22). Wayne Gretzky: "I don't believe
we're going to be playing hockey; I believe there's going to a
three- or four-month work stoppage" (CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/23).
Whalers Player Rep Pat Verbeek: "They're trying to break the
players. They're going to go as long as they can" (HARTFORD
COURANT, 9/23). Flyers Player Rep Mark Recchi: "It might take a
couple of weeks, but it's not going to get done in nine days"
(PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/23). The Sharks' Gaetan Duchense: "I
can't see something resolved in eight or nine days ... they're
not even close" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/23).
EXIT VISAS IMMINENT? There is speculation that several NHL
players will choose to play in the IHL or for European clubs
(Everson & Botte, N.Y. POST, 9/23).
CENTER OF THE STORM: In Toronto, Al Strachacan: "Let's face
it, Bettman wants a battle" (TORONTO SUN, 9/22). In Boston, Bob
Ryan writes Bettman's "militancy may actually be frightening a
few of his owners, that Bettman is actually a bit ahead of that
curve" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/22). In Vancouver, Jim Taylor writes if
Bettman does not recognize the "inherent dangers of Hockey Night
in July," he is "blind, deaf and terminally oblivious" (VANCOUVER
PROVINCE, 9/23). In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes that a lockout
will occur because the "owners have been too stupid to meet
budgets and too selfish to share revenues with each other" (ST.
LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/23). In New York, Steve Jacobson writes,
"What a way for hockey to break out of the igloo of the Frozen
North and join the main games!" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 9/23). Brett Hull
labeled Bettman a "union buster": "This has been his plan since
Day One. ... He doesn't care about the game at all." Blues'
Brendan Shanahan on Bettman's announcement of a "postponement,"
rather than a lockout: "He's the kind of guy who'd say, 'It's not
a wheel, it's's a round thing that spins around'" (ST. LOUIS