NHL AND ITS OFFICIALS SQUARE OFF: A SECOND LABOR DISPUTE?
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,