HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 76: INFORMAL TALKS YIELD LITTLE
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).