HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 104: THIS IS IT (WE MEAN IT!)
Upon direction by the NHL Board of Governors, NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman presented the NHLPA with a final
proposal to be decided upon today. According to NHL VP for
Public Relations Arthur Pincus, the season will be canceled if an
agreement is not reached "promptly." Asked to elaborate, Pincus
said "very soon" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11).
According to the NHLPA, Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow
are expected to meet again this morning (THE DAILY). Bruins
President & GM Harry Sinden: "This is the final, final, final,
final, final offer" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/11). In Toronto, Damien
Cox describes the deal as "Take it or leave it" (TORONTO STAR,
1/11). One league source, on the free agency age issue: "[The
owners] want 32 all the way across. And if the players don't
think the owners will cancel the season over this, they're wrong.
That's been the problem with this situation all along. All of
the players want to play, but not all of the owners want a
season" (Cynthia Lambert, DETROIT NEWS, 1/11).
THE OFFER: A six-year agreement (The owners could initiate
renegotiation after the 1996-97 season, the players a year
later). Entry draft starting at age 19. A rookie salary cap of
$850,000 that will increase incrementally every year of the
deal (The cap scheme does not include "slotting," or different
levels for different rounds). The right of teams to "walk away"
from three unfavorable arbitration decisions every two years.
Unrestricted free agency at 32 for first three years of the deal,
and then at 31 in the final three years (TORONTO STAR, 1/11).
THE OWNERS' POSITION: Canucks Owner Arthur Griffiths: "It
is very clear that the authority, ability and intentions of our
league and our leadership are to make a deal on the basis of what
was sent back and if Gary Bettman can do it, he will. If he
can't, we know the consequences" (Elliott Pap, VANCOUVER SUN,
1/11). One NHL Governor: "There is no room for bargaining this
time. That was made clear to Bettman" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR,
1/11). Sinden hopes the union will take the offer: "But I'm not
Bob Goodenow. He's full of surprises" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/11).
While Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow said he can live with the deal,
another Jets exec responded to an opinion the players would
reject it, saying: "I can only hope" (WINNIPEG SUN, 1/11).
PROSPECTS OF A DEAL: Blackhawks Player Rep Jeremy Roenick
said the fact that 10 to 30 players could be affected by each
increased year of free agency makes it a valid point of
contention: "In three years you're influencing 90 to 80 lives,
how much money they can make. ... That's something you have to
think about very seriously" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 1/10). Neil
Smith, Rangers G.M. and President: "I'm optimistic a deal can be
done because we're close enough to the players proposal that
something can be worked in order to get the vote of the
constituency of the players." Rangers Goalie Mike Richter: "You
think of the repercussions of getting too rigid, and it could be
the loss of the entire year." ESPN's Al Morganti, asked if he
believes the players will accept the deal: "I don't know that
they have much choice, it's now in their court the ball's been
hit back to them. Are they going to push the button on the
season? I don't think they can, I don't think there's enough
room to maneuver now, to say no to this and blow up the season"
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/10).