NHLPA DUMPS THE PUCK'S IN BETTMAN'S END
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).