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Volume 24 No. 117
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     Following yesterday's meeting of 26 player reps in Toronto,
the NHLPA expects as many as 200 players to convene for a
briefing on the state of talks with the league.  "The morning
line is that today's meeting will not be a stormy affair," writes
Bob McKenzie of the TORONTO STAR.  "If the players are as like-
minded on the issues as we've been led to believe it will turn
into a rally" (TORONTO STAR, 12/21).  NHLPA spokesperson Steve
McAllister:  "There'll be an update on negotiations, but there
won't be a vote.  There's really nothing to vote on" (Toronto
GLOBE & MAIL, 12/21).  NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "said the only
vote would be the ratification vote after all the cards are on
the table and the final offer is made" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO
SUN, 12/21).  After yesterday's meeting, the player reps were
adamant in their public opposition to a tax.  The Penguins' Larry
Murphy:  "If they insist on the tax, it'll kill the year.  So,
really, it's up to Gary Bettman whether he wants to shut the
season down or not" (Paul Hunter, TORONTO STAR, 12/21).     THE
PLAYERS' CHOICE:  According to Roy Cummings in this morning's
TAMPA TRIBUNE, Goodenow will inform the players that they
"miscalculated" regarding the owners' resolve and have only two
options to save the season:  1)  Make major concessions on
arbitration to convince owners to drop their luxury tax.  The
players would probably have to agree to non-binding arbitration
after five years.  2)  Accept and negotiate a tax and "fight for
the status quo in salary arbitration."  Notes Cummings, "This may
be their best option. ... There will no doubt be plenty of
support for [standing firm and losing the season] from the
players, but the bet around NHL circles is that Goodenow will
talk his players out of it" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21).  In New York,
Mark Everson writes, "In order to avoid a tax, it appears the
players may have to give up almost everything else they've gained
in the past 20 years" (N.Y. POST, 12/21).
     ON THE OWNERS' SIDE:  The CANADIAN PRESS is reporting that
sources say the owners have two proposals on the table -- one
with a tax and one without (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/21).  In Toronto,
Paul Hunter reports sources say there was "serious talk among
some owners Monday centering around presenting an offer without
the tax.  However, the word on the management grapevine yesterday
was the tax is still very much on the table and will remain
there.  The only way that it will be removed is if the players
drop all demands for salary arbitration and extended free
agency."  Adds Hunter, "That won't happen" (TORONTO STAR, 12/21).
     NEWS & NOTES:  Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch, to a Detroit
radio station earlier this week:  "Why not just come right out
and say 'cap' now?  I mean, it's a cap.  That's what we're after
here.  They're using other fancy terms, but that's what it boils
down to" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/21)....The AHL is facing its own labor
problems.  In yesterday's editions of Quebec's LE SOLEIL, one AHL
player said that talk of a pre-playoffs walkout is growing.  AHL
players have been without a contract since August (AP/TORONTO
STAR, 12/21).... Canucks President Pat Quinn suggested the NHL
season might be shortened to 40 games (TORONTO SUN,
12/21)....Capitals center Dave Poulin came away from a phone
conversation with Goodenow confident there will be a deal after
Christmas.  But Bruins GM Harry Sinden said:  "There isn't a
damned thing to agree on" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 12/21).