The NHLPA "isn't ready to create a league of its own. But as the gamesmanship with the NHL over a collective bargaining agreement, the union is planning to stage some games." The NHLPA is expected to announce as early as today two charity events to be played at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, on November 10 & 12. NHLPA Dir of Communications Steve McAllister: "The plan is to use the top players in the league" (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/26). The games will be broadcast in Canada on CTV. McAllister denied reports of plans for games in other cities. But one source said, "There will be more players wanting to be a part of it than there are spots on the team. If the stoppage drags on, there could be many more such games in various communities with charities benefitting considerably" (Frank Orr, TORONTO STAR, 10/26). "The union is hoping to have enough sponsors and television exposure to make the series viable" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 10/26). NHLPA Senior Dir of Business Affairs Ted Saskin said the planning of the games "has not detracted" from the union's negotiating effort (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). Copps Coliseum, which seats 17,500, hosted Canada Cup in '87 & '91. U.S. VERSION: Boston-based agent Neil Abbott is working on a series of 4-6 games to benefit charities in U.S. cities, including Chicago, Detroit and possibly Buffalo. Abbott "is close to nailing down primary sponsorship by a major American corporation he did not wish to name." Abbott: "There are corporate people in America who have sponsorship money to spend and don't have hockey or baseball to spend it on. ... I was more ambitious, but I'm probably talking about only one game now." Games could be played at the Rosemont Horizon near Chicago or The Palace at Auburn Hills, MI (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 10/26). Other possible U.S. sites: Target Center or the Met Center in MN (N.Y. POST, 10/26). GIVE 'EM HELL, HARRY: Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden maintains that the "outlook is dark" for a settlement, despite the recent talks between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow. And Sinden blames Goodenow: "There's no hope as long as Bob Goodenow is involved. ... I don't like Goodenow personally. I don't like his motives. His motives are to get as much money for the players as possible, and if it has to be at the expense of the game, so be it" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). FREE AGENCY: One issue sure to be discussed when NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow meets with several agents tomorrow is that of Group-1 free agents. "The current buzz in the hockey world is the NHLPA will offer to drop player equalization as compensation for Group-1 free agents (under 24, less than five pro-seasons)." Winnipeg-based agent Don Baizley describes it as "very significant." Under the current deal, Group-1's can select equalization (players) or compensation (draft picks) as payment for their team. If a Group-1 free agent selects equalization, "the team in question loses the player. If they select compensation, the team retains the right to match any offer. The move, in essence, would tie young players to their club for their first five pro seasons" (Ed Willes, WINNIPEG SUN, 10/26). NO JACKPOT: The lockout is costing the Ontario Lottery Corp. $3 million a week in lost Pro Line sales, according to a report in today's TORONTO SUN. If the dispute isn't settled, the OLC stands to lose more than $90M on regular-season NHL games (Jeff Harder, TORONTO SUN, 10/26). NEUTRAL SITE GAMES: Target Center head Dana Warg reports that Bettman told him the league wanted to retain the neutral-site games scheduled for Minnesota, Phoenix and Cleveland (Sid Hartman, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/25). It has been widely believed that neutral-site games would be the primary victims of a shortened NHL schedule.
Leagues Governing Bodies
Major League Soccer (MLS), "perhaps the best, last hope" for pro soccer in the U.S., might be delayed until April '96. U.S. Soccer Federation President and MLS Chair Alan Rothenberg said yesterday, "The later in the game it gets, the more you have to analyze whether to start in '95 or '96." Rothenberg added a postponement is a "possibility. Everything's a possibility." MLS has had difficulty finding investors for the league, which "probably affected" MLS' efforts to start 12 teams. The number of teams will reportedly be 10, with maybe only 5 of the original 7. Two NY sites have stadium problems and MLS officials are "scrambling to find an alternate site" in NY or NJ. Rothenberg said he is "circulating legal documents" for investors' signatures and hopes to announce them in the next two weeks (Brian Landman, ST. PETE TIMES, 10/26). Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and VA billionaire John Kluge are possible investors (Roscoe Nance, USA TODAY, 10/26).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met yesterday with officials of the NHL Officials' Association and their representative, Don Meehan, to discuss whether the language on the collective bargaining agreement agreed upon by both sides last year is official. In particular, the officials are threatening a lawsuit if the league stops paying refs and linesmen during the lockout. "The meeting dragged into the evening with no immediate word of progress, but it appears the dispute will not be resolved quickly." The contract says the league is obligated to pay officials for 45 days from the beginning of a players' strike, but sources say the deal makes no mention of a lockout. "However, Bettman is arguing that the new contract was never signed by either side, and thus the league is not under any obligation to pay." One official: "What we've done is sat here and kept our mouths shut and hoped things took care of themselves. But now (the league) is just trying to use the language of the contract against us" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/26). Despite the pay controversy, Meehan emerged calling the meeting "very positive." Meehan said the league will respond to the NHLOA's submission by 5pm EDT today (Steve Buffrey, TORONTO SUN, 10/26). Meehan's submission is thought to ask for an extension of the November 15 cut-off date for payment to the officials (Frank Orr, TORONTO STAR, 10/26). CNN's Fred Hickman, on the officials' concerns: "I guess they like to eat" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/25).
MLB officials will hear expansion proposals on November 1 from groups in Orlando, Tampa-St. Pete and Phoenix, and two groups from Northern VA. Orlando expansion organizer Norton Herrick has asked to reschedule his 90-minute slot so his entire group can be present. Herrick's partners, attorney Paul Jacobs and accountant Steve Kurtz, might be unable to attend because of involvement in a bankruptcy case involving initial Rockies investor Mickey Monus. Herrick has produced a $150M credit line to pay for the franchise, but relies on the experience of Jacobs and Kurtz, who were "instrumental in snaring" a team for Denver (Tracy & Lebowitz, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/25). After speaking with Red Sox Owner John Harrington, chair of MLB's Expansion Committee, Herrick said he thought the committee would be open to rescheduling. But committee member George Steinbrenner disagreed. Steinbrenner thinks "everybody should play by the same rules" and that Orlando would "benefit" from a delay. Herrick said "it could really hurt" Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris if Jacobs and Kurtz have to leave the Monus trial, but that he will be there November 1 if necessary (Bill Fay, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/26). ROBBING PETER TO PAY VIRGINIA? In Washington, Tom Boswell writes that the strike and Orioles Owner Peter Angelos' actions during the dispute could help Northern VA's bid for an expansion franchise. Noting that Angelos has given "comfort to the union." Boswell cites one source "close to many owners": "They control each other with threats of retaliation. He (Angelos) will probably find out the hard way." Boswell points out that growing controversy in Congress over baseball's anti-trust exemption could also prompt a Metro DC expansion team as a way to "smooth feathers" on Capitol Hill (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26). Columnist Dick Heller suggests the two Northern VA groups merge to produce $1.15B "to wave" at the expansion committee (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/26).
Nohl Rahn, one of the owners of the Artic Blast (MN's roller hockey team), said after returning from a Roller Hockey International league meeting, that the cost of franchise has increased from the $125,000 that the MN group paid to $1M now. Rahn on future expansion: "New York and Detroit could join the league next season. Right now the roller-skating industry is selling more equipment than hockey" (Sid Hartman, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/25).