The talks between the players and owners broke off, and now
the "ugly stage" is set for the owners to declare a negotiating
impasse (Alan Truex, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/15).
IMPLEMENTATION: Three-fourths of the ownership must vote
for implementation for passage at today's meeting in Chicago. It
will take eight votes to block implementation of the salary cap
(I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/15). All reports
acknowledge that Orioles owner Peter Angelos will vote against
implementation, while most note that at least one (but maybe
both) Canadian team will also vote against (Mult., 12/15). In
Chicago, Jerome Holtzman adds the Dodgers and Mets (CHICAGO
TRIBUNE, 12/15). And in L.A., Ross Newhan adds the Reds (L.A.
TIMES, 12/15). Red Sox CEO John Harrington will recommend
implementation at today's meeting. Special Mediator William
Usery has not ruled out going to Chicago "and asking the owners
to hold off" (Alan Truex, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/15). In New
York, Murray Chass notes the developments of the previous 24
hours could make the owners "take a harder look at the possible
implications" of implementation (N.Y. TIMES, 12/15).
WILL IT BE THE CAP? In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg writes,
"There is a question of what the clubs will implement." There
are two sets of proposals on the table, the original salary cap
and an escalating tax which the owners presented on November 17
(ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/15).
MORE INTERVENTION: Assuming the owners implement their
salary cap, the players are expected to appeal to the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) "with the charge that the owners
have not bargained in good faith, that implementation of the
owners' proposal was the objective when negotiations began almost
two years ago." The NLRB already "came in with a verdict for the
players" yesterday when it ruled in favor of the union on its
complaint that the owners were in violation of their contract
with the union for failing to make a $7.8M payment to the
players' pension fund (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/15).
MLBPA attorney Doyle Pryor: "If we have to file another charge,
it will already have been determined that they have not bargained
in good faith" (L.A. TIMES, 12/15). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck
notes with NLRB's pension decision, "the owners may have suffered
a significant setback. ... The announcement couldn't have come at
a worse time for the ownership bargaining committee" (Baltimore
WHAT NEXT? Some owners believe the players will "turn on
Fehr as they realize how much money he has cost them by leading
this freedom crusade" (Alan Truex, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/15).
ESPN' Peter Gammons and Bob Sirkin said "it is very unlikely"
that Usery will be fulfill his hope to have both sides back this
weekend ("SportsCenter," 12/14)
Attorneys from the NHL and NHLPA met at an undisclosed site
in New York, but without the principal players on each side,
including NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob
Goodenow. The negotiations "were between small groups with no
power to strike a deal. But the lawyers had instructions to see
if a breakthrough was possible in this situation that has locked
out players and curtailed the regular season" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y.
TIMES, 12/15). One source close to the talks: "What happens at
these meetings may determine whether negotiations resume." It is
expected that if both sides can identify some areas of
compromise, bargaining will resume by the weekend (Alan Adams,
CANADIAN PRESS/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/15). Bruins Player Rep
Dave Reid: "I wouldn't care if Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were
there as long as they settled it" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/15).
IS THERE ANY HOPE? Agent Rich Winter: "Baseball left it
and left it and left it, and I'm sure hockey will leave it, leave
it and leave it to the last minute, and Bettman will try and
squeeze out what he can -- he'll take it to the 11th hour" (Dave
Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/15). In Toronto, Damien Cox reports
some TV officials "have apparently been notified to have their
cameras and microphones at the ready for Boxing Day [December
26], although for that to happen a deal would have to come
together by the weekend" (TORONTO STAR, 12/15). But the OTTAWA
SUN is reporting that the NHL "is prepared to offer teams in need
a line of credit to cover losses during the lockout. Sources
said that decision indicates the owners are preparing for the
cancellation of the season" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 12/15).
TEAM GRETZKY: Wayne Gretzky, as his traveling all-star team
closed out its European tour with a win in Germany: "I was taken
back by the response [during the tour]. It's a clear sign that
the NHL is accepted here and could be tremendously successful
over here. How they want to do that, whether it's a division or
what, is up to them. This has opened a few doors for everyone."
As well as helping the game abroad, Tony Gallagher writes that
Gretzky also boosted his own marketability. "He's had millions
of dollars worth of offers so far, but he's turned down almost
all, waiting until he returns to carefully select with whom he
wishes to involve himself" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/15).