HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 54: TIME OUT FOR TURKEY
As the two sides in the labor negotiations broke for the
Thanksgiving holiday, observers and media members noted the
continued progress but were quick to add that there are many
issues yet to be resolved. ESPN's Steve Levy: "Hold on to that
optimism." NHLPA Exec Dir Goodenow: "There's still a lot of
issues yet to be resolved before there can be an agreement.
That's the best report I can give you." NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman: "It's not just a question of sitting in the room.
There are issues that you have go back and think about, you have
to talk to your constituents -- and I mean this on both sides"
("SportsCenter," 11/22). The two sides meet again on Friday,
possibly back in Boston.
CARVING UP THE LUXURY TAX: "It is becoming apparent from
conversations with team owners that there is anxiety among some
of them that a settlement is needed soon and that some owners
aren't as committed to the luxury tax" as Bettman. Kings co-
owner Joe Cohen: "The tax should be the last thing we look at."
Cohen added that if Bettman can accomplish creating a "drag" on
salary escalation through other means, "then a tax can be less
important" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/23). Bruins President &
GM Harry Sinden said management will not know whether it will
need a tax until the other issues (rookie cap, arbitration, etc.)
are in place: "When we're finished, we'll add it up and see
where we are" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 11/23). One source
close to the NHLPA said the players will break off talks if the
tax returns: "If the league is holding back on the tax proposal
in order to present it later, it is a grave error" (Dave Fuller,
TORONTO SUN, 11/23). NHL sources reiterated that the tax "will
have to be addressed before a deal is struck" (Kevin Paul Dupont,
BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23). The season "now appears to depend solely
on finding an alternative to a payroll or luxury tax, or dropping
the idea altogether" (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/23).
ARE ANY DEALS DONE? "It can be safely stated that they
haven't marked off any major issues off the checklist," according
to Bob McKenzie in this morning's TORONTO STAR. Below is a run-
down of other possible resolutions:
FREE AGENCY: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher reports, "There
would be no Group 1, the players having surrendered that some
time ago. Group 2 would be liberalized in that it would be less
restrictive in terms of the draft choices going back to the team
losing the player. Group 3 would be liberalized as well but the
right to match would be retained to protect the losing club."
Furthermore, unrestricted free agency would be granted to all
players 28 or older after eight years of service (Vancouver
PROVINCE, 11/23). McKenzie reports on Group 2, the two sides
haven't agreed on compensation levels or arbitration. On Group
3, the players "aren't keen" on the league's insistence on a
"franchise-player" system (TORONTO STAR, 11/23).
ROOKIE CAP: Bob McKenzie reports the two sides are
"millions apart" on what the restrictions would be (TORONTO STAR,
11/23). Tony Gallagher reports the players have "reluctantly
agreed" to a hard cap (VANCOUVER SUN, 11/23).
THE "REGULAR" SEASON: The league has targeted April 26 as
the last day of the shortened season, with 54- and 60-game
schedules both under consideration (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR,
11/23). The questions of whether players will be paid in-full
for a short regular season, or whether the playoffs will be cut
also face both sides. It is "rather apparent that a shortened
regular season would be a financial blessing to teams so long as
there is a regular playoff. Perhaps this is what owners mean by
a 'meaningful' regular season" (Roy MacGregor, OTTAWA CITIZEN,
11/23). The players are also expected to be paid for any
training camp period (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/23).