"If anyone was anticipating an uprising against NHL players boss Bob Goodenow, it simply wasn't in the cards," writes Damien Cox in this morning's TORONTO STAR. A group of about 35 player agents that met with Goodenow yesterday "basically reaffirmed their support" (TORONTO STAR, 10/28). "Any hopes the owners might be able to drive a wedge between the agents and the union were dashed when Goodenow revealed the league cancelled its insurance policies on the players on Oct. 15 -- and didn't tell anyone. ... While the NHLPA has since agreed to pay the insurance premiums, the players were without medical, dental and life insurance for nearly two weeks" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/28). This is a "blow" for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, writes David Shoalts. "Now, not only is Bettman facing a smart, stubborn union leader, he is facing one with the unwavering support of all elements of his constituency" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/28). But, in her report on the Goodenow/agents summit, ESPN's Linda Cohn noted: "There is a sign union solidarity might be showing signs of weakening, at least among its younger players" ("SportsCenter," 10/27). CHECK THE RECORDS: According to a CANADIAN PRESS report, Goodenow also requested that the league's 26 owners release their financial records. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "agreed to do so if the players agreed to return to work under the terms of the NHL's last collective bargaining proposal while an audit was done by a firm chosen by the NHLPA" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). STARS ON TOUR: Bettman said he can't stop a proposed tour of Europe by a team of NHL stars led by Wayne Gretzky. But he did say: "I hope they don't reverse the strides we have made to improve our relationship with international hockey." Notified of Gretzky's plans, IIHF General Secretary Jan-Ake Edvinssson said they would need consent from local federations and the NHL before any games could be scheduled (George Gross, TORONTO SUN, 10/28). ESPN hockey analyst Mike Milbury called the proposed exhibitions "a real bad idea": "That takes care of the stars, but what about the other 650 guys who are out walking the dog or doing the dishes? What does it do for them?" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). The first of four scheduled NHL players' charity games will be Sunday night in Sarnia, ONT, between a team of NHLers and the junior Sarnia Sting (Mult., 10/28). GRETZKY SPEAKS: Wayne Gretzky: "We want to play hockey, too. Kirk Muller wants to play hockey, I talked to him yesterday. Doug Gilmour wants to play hockey. I want to play hockey. Messier, he is out in L.A. saying he wants to play hockey. But, we are not going to do anything to step on Bob's toes. ... It is going exactly the way we were all told and we are just basically standing back and we have our trust in the Association" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/27). NO COMPARISON, SAYS NHL: The NHL released a statement in response to requests for comment on the NBA's decision to start its season under a no-strike/no- lockout agreement with its players' union. From the NHL: "The NBA arrangement preserves a status quo for that League that is competitively and economically sound. The NBA has had in place for more than 10 years a system designed to preserve the competitive balance and economic viability of its clubs and the financial well-being of its players. It makes good sense for the NBA to continue under a system like that. ... The NBA has assured itself what we accomplished a year ago -- playing one season without a CBA" (NHL). NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke, on the NBA: "Let's see where they are a year from now." Burke also noted the NBA's salary cap, adding that he "hasn't heard the NHL players say they'll play with a cap this season while negotiations continue" (KNIGHT-RIDDER/SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/28). ON LAYOFFS & NO PAYOFFS: The Canucks gave layoff notices to their ticket manager and special events manager, but teams officials said to avoid further layoffs, Canucks employees may be shifted to work for the expansion NBA Grizzlies (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/28)....Maple Leaf Gardens Chair Steve Stavro announced there will be no Leafs layoffs until January at the earliest (TORONTO STAR, 10/28). But MLG also announced that, because of the lockout, it would not pay its customary quarterly dividend for the first quarter of FY '95. MLG announced its revenue is down $2.8M from a comparable period in '94 (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/28).
Leagues Governing Bodies
Unlike MLB and the NHL, the NBA "displayed its viable working relationship/partnership with the players yesterday by reaching a temporary agreement to avoid a work stoppage." Both sides agreed to play the season under a no-lockout/no-strike pledge while negotiating a new CBA (Roger Brown, FT. WORTH STAR- TELEGRAM, 10/28). NBA Commissioner David Stern: "The 1994-95 season through and including our finals will be played in their entirety." NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham: "Our players are very concerned about the integrity of the game and a full and complete championship season" (Mult., 10/28). "In a far cry from the animosity that has pockmarked the hockey and baseball negotiations, both men took turns acting like best friends, then worthy adversaries" (Flip Bondy, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/28). Hornets Player Rep Kenny Gatison: "It's just a truce. The issues aren't dead. This is just a breather" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/28). THE SPIN: Peter Vecsey writes, "Naturally, we knew all along basketball wouldn't triplicate the mistake committed by baseball and compounded by hockey. ... It was only a matter of time running out before they came to their dollar and senses" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/28). In New York, Ian O'Connor writes, "This was Stern's day, though, the day he went back to being the best in the world at running a game" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/28). ESPN's Bob Ley: "The initiative for the truce came from the consummate dealmaker, David Stern" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/27). Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "The bottom line is the two sports that are playing both have salary caps" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28). PLAYERS WANT TO PLAY? In L.A., Mark Heisler notes that "reports surfaced that several young stars," including Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, "had passed word they didn't want to go on strike." Leonard Armato, the agent for O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, "said he didn't see the need for a strike." Pacer center LaSalle Thompson: "Sam Mitchell and I were joking, that [if] the owners locked us out, we'd sue them to let us come back to work" (L.A. TIMES, 10/28). For the players, "giving up the right to strike was not conceding as much as the owners did by taking the no-lockout pledge" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). PARTS OF THE DEAL: Included was the inclusion of a "window of opportunity" for players under contract. Players now have until November 8 to renegotiate or extend their deals. After that date, no action can be taken for the rest of the season. Unsigned draft picks and free agents will have unlimited time to come to terms. Grantham did concede that he would have liked a longer "window of opportunity" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). Also, "as part of the peace accord," players Howard Eisley and David Wood allowed their suit against the league charging it maintains an "artificially" low cap to be postponed until next summer. Eisley agent Frank Catapano: "It's a good thing we filed the suit. I think it really bothered the NBA. I didn't think it would be that big a deal when we filed it, but the league must have been afraid they'd lose it, because they didn't want to go to court" (Steve Bulpett, BOSTON HERALD, 10/28). BACK TO THE TABLE: While yesterday's news assured the NBA of a full season, "it did not signify a closing of the gap between the two groups who are admittedly nowhere near an agreement" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). The salary cap "may create an insurmountable barrier" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/28). CNN's Mark Lorenz: "The two sides are still far apart on a new labor contract, but decided to put good faith above any bad feelings that might exist" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/27). The union have said it wants to abolish the cap, but several veteran players are open to a rookie cap. The owners not only want to keep the cap, but want to close the loopholes to make it a "hard" cap. The two sides are expected to re-divide the licensing pie. As of now, the players get $500,000 a year out from merchandising of the $2.5B in expected '94 sales (Mult.). THINKING AHEAD: "While basketball fans are cheering the decision by the league and its players to sidestep the labor muck that has mired baseball and hockey, this could mean there will still be no labor agreement in place by this time next year. And that raises the spectre of labor strife short-circuiting the inaugural season of Canada's [two expansion franchises]" (Craig Daniels, TORONTO SUN, 10/28).
1999 SUPER BOWL: NFL owners attending the next week's fall meetings in Chicago will determine whether Candlestick Park or Joe Robbie Stadium will be the host stadium for the 1999 Super Bowl. David McIntosh, Chair of the South Florida Super Bowl 1999 Host Committee, said that the vote "will be close": "But we have a great bid. We've got better weather, a better stadium, a better bid all around" (Armando Salguero, MIAMI HERALD, 10/28). ROONEY FIGHTS FOR REALIGNMENT: Steelers Owner Dan Rooney said he will make a "last ditch" attempt to sell the owners on a realignment plan when the group meets in Chicago on Tuesday: "This is our last chance to do it. If we don;t do it now, we're not going to realign for a long time" (Ira Miller, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 10/28). League sources said yesterday it seems unlikely the 28 owners will agree on any realignment (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 10/28). NEW DRUG POLICY: The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed on a new drug policy that emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation rather than detection and discipline. The policy, which also stresses confidentiality for players in treatment, will be formally announced some time before league owners gather in Chicago next Tuesday for their annual meeting. The policy does not address the issue of steroid use (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 10/28).
VA Governor George Allen has joined the efforts of two Northern VA groups trying to lure a baseball expansion franchise to the area. If a team is granted, Allen adminstration officials said that the state will create a VA Baseball Stadium Authority that could issue tax-exempt bonds to cover stadium, parking and transportation costs. Allen is also considering personally delivering Northern VA's plan to MLB officials in Chicago next week. In an interview, Allen said state aid ultimately "has to have a payoff" in economic benefit to the area. Five sites are under consideration for a proposed stadium, most located near Dulles Airport in the DC suburban area. Fairfax County officials are in Richmond today to "work out financial details" with Allen administration officials. The "key question" in raising bonds is the source of repayment. Parking fees and ticket taxes are possible revenue sources, but "general" taxpayer money could be included. Fairfax County Board Chair Thomas Davis, who is in a tight race for a Congressional seat, said he intends to form a task force next week to study possible stadium sites (Peter Baker, WASHINGTON POST, 10/28).