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Volume 24 No. 157
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     The financial condition of several NHL franchises is
expected to be the primary topic when the league's Board of
Governors meet today and tomorrow in Palm Beach, FL.  In
Minneapolis, Jay Weiner sums up the agenda:  "Two words,
'franchise issues'" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/14).  In Tampa,
Tom Jones calls revenue-sharing the "main topic" -- but adds that
no final decision is expected on that issue in these meetings
(TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/14).  In Toronto, Al Strachan writes, "Until
[problem] franchises are solid, all other business is on the back
burner" (TORONTO SUN, 12/14).      TROUBLE SPOTS:  Lightning
Governor David LeFevre:  "The big concern right now is Miami"
(TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/14).  In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes,
"Gary Bettman and the owners would dearly love to have Miami stay
in the league and a new rink built to keep the Panthers in this
glorious market if for no other reason than television
penetration.  But the commish faces an uphill battle on this one"
(Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/14).  Al Strachan also notes problems
with the Whalers and the Oilers, who face low attendance, lack of
corporate support, and an inability to sell arena naming rights
(TORONTO SUN, 12/14).
     EXPANSION, HO?  USA TODAY's Kevin Allen reports Commissioner
Bettman is likely to use the Panthers as "Exhibit A" as he
recommends a slow pace on expansion.  Still, some NHL owners
would like the revenue from expansion franchise fees to pay off
losses from a player pension lawsuit.  Allen expects the owners
to "listen to Bettman" (USA TODAY, 12/14).  In Ottawa, Roy
MacGregor reports some sources believe two new cities will be
announced, with Portland, Houston, Atlanta and Nashville named.
Some owners are concerned that troubled franchises will move and
take over the best expansion cities (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/14).
     NEW DEAL FOR BETTMAN?  The TORONTO STAR reports one of the
"most significant" developments could be a renegotiation of
Bettman's contract.  Currently in Year 3 of a five-year deal
paying him $1M a year, the STAR's Bob McKenzie reports the Board
of Governors' eight-member Executive Committee "has already had
conversations with him about reworking the deal for a longer term
at substantially more money, perhaps as much as or more than
double what he's currently earning."  Actual negotiations have
not taken place, but sources say the committee and Bettman have
"agreed in principle" to go forward with the idea (TORONTO STAR,