NHL PLAYERS REJECT NEW PROPOSAL, PREPARE FOR LOCKOUT
"Barring a miracle of epic proportion," NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman is expected to instruct owners tomorrow that he will
postpone the start of the season. Following nine hours of
negotiations between Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow,
Bettman returned to New York after offering "one more proposal"
to Goodenow on the "pivotal issue" of revenue sharing. But
Goodenow dismissed the offer as "merely another way for the NHL
to inflict the dreaded salary cap" (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR,
9/28). Goodenow: "We're not at a dead end per se, but we've got
problems" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/28). Bettman
was equally pessimistic: "I wish I could say we made a lot of
progress, but that hasn't been the case" (Frank Orr, TORONTO
STAR, 9/28). But Bettman "hinted" that if a lockout occurs it
will be a short one: "If we delay this by a week and then we get
an agreement, I think the fans will be well served" (Al Strachan,
TORONTO SUN, 9/28).
BETTMAN ANNOUNCEMENT: Several team execs confirm that a
conference call between Bettman and the Board of Governors has
been scheduled for 6pm tonight. "Unless there's a dramatic
development" before then, Bettman will "most certainly" tell the
owners to begin the shutdown process. The formal announcement to
postpone Saturday's opening night would come from Bettman on
Friday (TORONTO STAR, 9/28).
ROOKIE CAP: A source tells the N.Y. POST that the players
"have already offered" to yield on a entry-level salary cap that
would regulate the first three years of a player's base earnings
and signing bonus. The "source": "It isn't as though we feel it
(the rookie cap) is appropriate, but we feel it's a show of good
faith on our part to compromise on that issue." (Larry Brooks,
N.Y. POST, 9/28).
THE GREAT ONE FACES OFF: ESPN's Karl Ravetch: "The war of
words has begun to heat up, and hockey's biggest gun, Wayne
Gretzky, is among several players who are firing away at the
commissioner." Gretzky: "It seems like one person is taking the
bull by the horns and making a decision for everybody. ... For
somebody to come in here who has only been in hockey for one
year, and tell us we're not going to play, is very frustrating
and extremely disappointing. ... "I hope that it [the sport]
doesn't all come crumbling down just because one person wants to
change the format" ("SportsCenter," 9/28). NHLPA VP Kelly
Miller: "It was very clear today that a salary cap is exactly
what Gary Bettman wants" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 9/27).
NEW YORK-TORONTO DIALOGUE: Bettman: "Some people suggest
that New York lawyers are running the game and don't care about
it. It's not true" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/28). But in Toronto, Gary
Joyce writes: "There is no more curious scene in the world of
sports than Gary Bettman professing his undying love for the game
of hockey." Also in Toronto, Rosie DiManno writes: "That
professed love can only be a latter-day crush, at best. If he's
not a hired gun, then he's a thug in an elegantly-cut suit"
(TORONTO STAR, 9/28).
IS THAT VIPERS OR VULTURES? IHL Commissioner Robert Ulfer
said that he has spoken with Goodenow about the possibility of
NHL players joining IHL clubs if a lockout occurs. Ulfer
contended that under current labor laws NHL players could sign
temporary contracts with IHL clubs. Houston Aeros GM Steve
Patterson conceded that his club is considering signing NHL
players to a 25-game contract: "We're an independent team. We
could sign anybody." ESPN2 has talked to the IHL about picking
up several games if the NHL season is not under way next week.
The first game that would be televised would be Houston at
Denver, October 2 (Jody Goldstein, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/27).
Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher is currently playing
for the IHL's Detroit Vipers. The Rangers Ed Olczyk and the
Blackhawks Jeremy Roenik have also expressed interest in playing
for an IHL team if a lockout occurs (THE DAILY).