THE NHL'S LONGEST SHORT SEASON FINALLY REACHES THE FINALS
The NHL "seemed to drop the puck on its own corporate foot"
with the lockout last fall, but now -- with the Stanley Cup
Finals underway -- "it appears the league has rebounded from its
bad and belated start," according to Michael Hirsley in Sunday's
CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Three factors point to an "upswing": 1)
Attendance averaged a record 15,867 per game; 2) TV ratings were
up at all four of the major outlets; 3) Merchandise sales held
the $1B mark, while MLB's sale dropped 16% in '94. NHL Senior VP
& COO Steve Solomon: "Our season this year had a beginning, a
middle and an end, unlike Major League Baseball last year. I
think that got us off on the right foot toward undoing the
dispute's harmful effects" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/18).
ANOTHER LONG, HOT SUMMER? In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont
notes that "the storm clouds of a collusion claim appear to be
gathering." Many agents met with NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow
last week, with one asking if the union would sue the league if
the market for Group 2 free agents is "nonexistent" this summer.
Goodenow took a "wait-and-see posture" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/18). In
Dallas, Terry Egan also notes the "restricting" nature of the
restricted free agent market. Stars President Jim Lites predicts
"no bidding wars" over young stars this summer, while Bruins
President Harry Sinden sees the lack of interest causing a "real
downward trend in salaries" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/18).