The NFL's Management Council has approved a measure that
will "preclude teams from receiving" 1st or 2nd-round draft
choices in '95 as compensation for net losses in the '94 free
agent market. Falcons owner Rankin Smith is "angered by a
unilateral decision he labeled 'a bombshell.'" The Falcons
figure to be among the biggest losers in the policy switch. The
Falcons were one of the NFL's most "aggressive teams in free
agency," but at the same time, they lost high-profile players
like Deion Sanders, Chris Hinton, Michael Haynes and Chris
Miller. Smith figures his team would receive an extra 1st- or
2nd-round pick for the losses. Equally upset by the ruling were
team officials from Buffalo and Houston. The NFL began adding
compensatory picks to teams who lost significant players to free
agency in '93 (Len Pasquarelli, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/30).
Blackhawk Chris Chelios called the NHL league office to
apologize for his comments that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman or
his family could be endangered should there be a lockout,
according to NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow. Goodenow: "Obviously,
it's a stressful situation for everyone involved. This is not to
condone improper behavior." Chelios' call was taken by NHL
Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, but as of last night
Chelios had not spoken to Bettman. NHL VP Commuications Arthur
Pincus: "In times like this, we understand that people say
things that they may not mean. We hope that this is the case
here" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). Chelios did not talk to
the media on Thursday. NHLPA Media Relation Dir Steve
McAllister: "It's impossible for us to control what 600 hockey
players might say" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/30). In Los
Angeles, Mike Downey writes, "Although I cannot condone such
sentiments, bilious as they are, I can almost understand young
Chelios' rage." He does add, however: "Chris has apparently
been to one too many Martin Scorcese movies" (L.A. TIMES, 9/30).
ESPN analyst Al Morganti said that "nobody likes Chris Chelios
throwing those kinds of words," but that his comments haven't
"changed the philosophy of the situation" ("SportsCenter," ESPN,
9/29). Pincus said the league has no plans to fine Chelios
(Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/30).
PLAYERS STICK BY HIM: Alan Lessels reports that comments
about Bettman in the Bruins' locker room were pointed, but that
Chelios "went a step -- or three, or four -- further." Bruin Ray
Bourque: "Chris got a little emotional there" (BOSTON GLOBE,
9/30). "Many of the Flyers, while not endorsing the length to
which Chelios went, blasted Bettman on their own." Eric Lindros:
"He deserves it" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/30).
MORE LOCKER-ROOM VENTING: NHLPA VP Marty McSorley:
"Basically, the idea is to attack the union when they feel the
union is at its weakest. I think they want to put the players in
their place, gain control and be able to reap the benefits"
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/30). Gretzky said Bettman
underestimated the players' resolve: "It's a strong union" (Al
Strachan, TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Ranger Jay Wells on Bettman:
"He'll get his some day. Some punk comes in who never sweated a
day in his life trying to revamp the league" (Mark Everson, N.Y.
POST, 9/30). One NHLPA source: "Bettman's saying publicly that
he's concerned about the Canadian small markets, but it's a lie.
He told Bob (Goodenow) he didn't care about them at all" (N.Y.
POST, 9/30). Blackhawk Bernie Nicholls said he "nearly puked"
when he saw "Bettman's smiling picture" on Wednesday (Tony
Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30). Maple Leaf Todd Gill said
Bettman is "taking food out of my family's mouths": "The man has
no idea about hockey. He's a businessman" (TORONTO SUN, 9/30).
Canuck Sergio Momesso: "Money is what it's all about -- nothing
else" (VANCOUVER SUN, 9/30).
HOLLYWOOD HERE WE COME: The NHLPA gave Penguin players
permission to appear in scenes from Jean-Claude Van Damme's
"Sudden Death." The players skate tomorrow in the Igloo and will
play a simulated game while Van Damme tries to save the Igloo
from terrorists (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/30).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to announce today
in New York that the start of the season will be postponed, while
NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow pledged a strike-free season while
talks continue on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Goodenow said their "commitment" not to strike "removes the NHL's
only stated reason for the October 1 lockout threat." Goodenow
added: "If this proposal is rejected, it means (management wants)
a fight. If the NHL wants a labor fight now, so be it." Bettman
conducted a lengthy conference call with owners last night in
which they reportedly rejected the players' offer. A formal
announcement is expected today (Mult., 9/30).
ANOTHER D-DAY: Owners, managers and club officials from
across the NHL have been urged to attend the 1pm EDT press
conference. One "unnamed" owner confirmed that a lockout will
occur: "It's pretty obvious we won't be playing" (Tony Gallagher,
Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30). Bettman will warn the players that if
there is "not significant progress" by the middle of October,
there could be "serious consequences" for the rest of the season.
Wayne Gretzky: "We kind of expected this answer. ... We have told
our players this is not something that is going to change over
night, it is something that could go on for three, four, or five
months" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/30).
OWNERS WON'T BEND: Devils owner John McMullen contends that
franchises "can't exist" under the current format: "With the
money I have spent on this team, I could have thrown a dart at
the New York Stock Exchange and done better" (Dave Fuller,
TORONTO SUN, 9/30). Senators principal owner Rod Bryden: "As
players salaries go up, the ability of teams to support the other
things needed to effectively deliver the total package of hockey
goes down" (John MacKinnon, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/30). ESPN hockey
analyst Al Morganti said three owners told him, "if it comes down
to it, we'd rather not play this season. We'll lose more money
playing" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/29). Bob Ryan reports after
the conference call with Bettman and the owners, Bruins
President/GM Harry Sinden -- a man "who has an opinion on
everything" -- became Sgt. Schultz of Hogan's Heroes (as in "I
know nothing") (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30).
OR WILL THEY? Some teams, like Chicago and St. Louis, stand
to lose as much as $1M for every game cancelled (TORONTO SUN,
9/30). Gretzky suggested that ownership may not be unified: "I
know the L.A. Kings owners all want to play Saturday night"
(OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/30). Panther captain Brian Skrudland said he
talked with Owner Wayne Huizenga "and agreed with him 100%":
"I'm hoping that Mr. Huizenga, [Black Hawks Owner Bill Wirtz],
all the Misters that own hockey teams are going to be the Misters
that make the decision and not Mr. Bettman" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/30).
GOOD REVIEWS FOR GOODENOW: David Shoalts calls the NHLPA
no-strike offer "a skillful public-relations move" (Toronto GLOBE
& MAIL, 9/30). Richard Sandomir writes that Goodenow's
announcement was the "classiest TV moment by a union leader
during this unusual confluence of labor problems" (N.Y. TIMES,
9/30). Larry Brooks calls Goodenow's announcement "a masterful
public relations stroke." Brooks adds: "It is not a labor fight
the NHL wants, it is a new deal. The NHLPA is quite content to
live with the old deal" (N.Y. POST, 9/30). George Vescey: "If
there is no start of the season, these hockey owners will have a
lot of explaining to do" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). But Tony Gallagher
writes: "All this last ditch pitch by the players achieved was to
flush Bettman out of his stance of delaying the season on behalf
of the fans" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/30).
Stan Fischler said the players have "the slight edge" in the P.R.
war ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 9/29).
BACKING BETTMAN: Bob McKenzie wrotes that Bettman is not a
"hard-driving American lawyer killing the game": "He is
representing his constituency the best way he knows how, using
all the tools available to him" (TORONTO STAR, 9/30).