HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 52: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM SWEEPS LAND
"The next round of talks on the NHL labor front should give
us a pretty clear picture of whether this season will be
salvaged," writes Mike Weaver in Sunday's SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS.
"Continued progress when the sides meet again [today] and Tuesday
could signal an end to the lockout. Another impasse could sound
the death knell for the season" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/20).
"Progress is one thing; a deal is yet another" (Bob McKenzie,
TORONTO STAR, 11/19). One source close to the talks: "This
thing could get done in a few hours if they really put their
minds to it. .. But, and this is a big but, it could be just
about done, something could happen over one single issue and you
could almost be back to square one" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES,
11/19). Despite the new "sense of urgency," neither side "has
indicated a willingness to move off its basic themes" (Larry
Brooks, N.Y. POST, 11/19). "The talks are not at the stage where
issues have been checked off a list, but there certainly has been
movement" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 11/19). The owners'
"hard line" position is now "passe" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 11/19). The two sides meet again today at an undisclosed
location (Mult., 11/21).
OOGA, BOOGA: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes, "All that
still rests in the 500-pound gorilla known as the cap. If the
players remain open to talk and relent on the myriad other
critical issues, especially salary arbitration, then the owners
could harvest enough small gains to give up the cap" (BOSTON
GLOBE, 11/20). One GM "figures if the players are willing to do
away with salary arbitration or drastically change it, the tax
levy might not be as big a deal" (Jim Matheson, EDMONTON JOURNAL,
11/19). In a fax to all GMs, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "made
it clear that 'contrary to press reports, the tax still is on the
table'" (Red Fisher, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/19). Dave Fay reports
the league offered to guarantee that the average salary would
continue to rise at the same rate it has over the past few years
-- 17% per season. One player: "I thought that's exactly what
they didn't want" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/20).
OLIVER STONE'S "N.H.L.": In Tampa, Roy Cummings reports on
rumors resurfacing of a "pre-planned 50-game schedule and league-
wide master plan to begin play no earlier than Jan. 1." The
story was reportedly related by an exec from a Canadian NHL team
to a "well-known player from a U.S.-based club on the East
Coast." The plan, said to be hatched in NHL league offices late
this summer, calls for the league to push the players until mid-
December -- at which time they would either take the best offer
on the table or "make one last push" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/20).
NERVOUS FOX EXECS? In New York, Steve Zipay reports on the
"angst" at Fox over the potential loss of the all-star game on
January 21 -- the scheduled debut of the NHL on Fox. The network
has not been able to promote the game and no one is sure how
players will be selected (NEWSDAY, 11/18).