HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 20: IS SOMEONE GETTING ANTSY?
The NHL owners "will hold a conference call with major
corporate sponsors next week, bringing them up to date on the
status of negotiations," according to a report in this morning's
TORONTO SUN. Nike and Anheuser-Busch are the NHL's two top
sponsors (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/20). FIRST "PRESSURE
POINT"? The NHL "will announce by tomorrow that it is
restructuring a best-case scenario, 76- or 78-game regular season
schedule per team, thus guaranteeing that players will not
collect full-season, 84-game pay," according to a report in this
morning's N.Y. POST. While cancellations will "place a burden on
the teams in the form of ticket refunds, NHL management believes
that the players are currently more financially vulnerable"
(Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 10/20).
OATES DRAWS IRE OF FELLOW PLAYERS: Several Canucks were
"suitably unimpressed with the apparent first wedge" in the union
-- Adam Oates's comments that the owners' proposal "sounds pretty
good." Canuck Jeff Brown: "If that's the way Adam feels, it's a
shame. Maybe he hasn't saved for this and he's trying to take
the rest of the guys down with him. This is just what the owners
would like to see, but Adam is only one guy in the union and I
don't think it will hurt our cause" (Elliott Pap, VANCOUVER SUN,
MCMULLEN DRAWS IRE OF A FELLOW MANAGER: Rangers President &
GM Neil Smith said that Rangers VP & General Counsel Kenneth
Munoz telephoned NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to complain about
remarks made by Devils Owner John McMullen in a luncheon meeting
with N.Y. TIMES reporters. On Tuesday, McMullen compared the
financial standing of the Devils to the Rangers and claimed that
the Rangers were able to spend "between $25 and $27 million" on
their player payroll to win the Cup in '93-94. Smith would not
give specific figures, but said the Rangers' payroll was under
$20 million. He called McMullen's comments "objectionable, to
say the very least" ... "very, very inaccurate" ... and "just
out-and-out ridiculous." The league had no comment on the
dispute (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/20).
THIS IS SOLIDARITY? While MSG President Dave Checketts
publicly states his unity with fellow owners, he "all but
admitted the Rangers wanted to accept the players' no-strike
pledge and start the season on Oct. 1." Checketts, on the
booking problems created by the lockout at Madison Square Garden:
"It's not like we can call Barbra Streisand and have her singing
the next night." Toronto, Montreal, St. Louis and L.A. are also
said to have favored playing over a lockout (Dave Fuller, TORONTO
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO START TALKS? The two sides have not
met in two weeks, and neither the league nor the union would
predict talks in the near future. In Toronto, Bob McKenzie
writes, "Only when the losses, real losses, begin to mount is
there any hope of movement in the stalemated negotiations"
(TORONTO STAR, 10/20). According to a source "with close ties to
NHL management," there is a "good chance" that the U.S.
government will attempt to force the league and the NHLPA to
accept a mediator. While neither the U.S. nor Canadian
government has "complete authority" because of the game's
international nature, "it would be difficult to reject such a
request because of a public-relations problem alone" (David
Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/20). A league spokesperson
"denied that the services of a mediator had been rejected, as
some sources reported, because he said none had been requested"
(Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/20). In New York, Mark Everson
writes, "The first step toward getting talks started again is
clearly the league's responsibility" (N.Y. POST, 10/20).
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: While NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow
is "fuming" over NHL Senior VP & Director of Hockey Ops Brian
Burke's tour of several North American cities, "his aides say he
has at least contemplated doing the same thing." Jets Player Rep
Stephane Quintal: "If the NHL would do less media work and more
negotiating, we'd be better off" (Tim Campbell, Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 10/20). Burke's trip took him to Dallas yesterday.