MILL players threaten 'retirement' over size of pay increase for 1997 League says season will go on regardless

November 22, 1996|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Major Indoor Lacrosse League's players, upset over their proposed raise for the coming season, are threatening a "mass retirement."

Unhappy that the league's owners are not awarding them a $275-per-game pay increase for the 1997 season and frustrated at the sport's limited growth over the past decade, the MILL Players Association, which has a no-strike clause in its contract, said it has received commitments from many of its members to not play during the league's 11th season.

"We don't feel the requests the players are making are unattainable," said players association president Peter Schmitz, whose group rejected a $100-per-game increase. "We feel the league has a lot more to lose in not giving into limited financial demands, and they are prepared not to play."

The two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, so the league opted to in- Kroneberger voke the extension clause in the current collective bargaining agreement for another year.

Last season, a first-year player in the MILL earned $150 per game, while a top-scale player (one with nine years of league experience) made $525 a game.

Russ Cline, founder and principal owner of the MILL, said he hopes the veterans are in uniform when the season opens on Jan. 4, but said the 1997 season will go on, with or without them.

"There is strong emotion involved in this right now, and we need to try to get the emotion out and do what is best for the sake of the sport and the fans," said Cline. "We can always quit, but this sport cannot handle not playing for a year. This is not baseball, but apparently there are some guys who are willing to do that."

One of those guys is Thunder team representative Brian Kroneberger. Kroneberger said the league's instituted pay increase is unacceptable and blames the league's financial situation and declining attendance on a "flawed business model."

"We've given them [the league owners] three years to accomplish something since the last contract, and all they've done is failed in two cities [Charlotte and Detroit] and watched attendance go down," said Kroneberger, who, like the rest of the league's players, has until 6 p.m. Monday to sign the MILL's one-year contract offer.

The original signing deadline was supposed to have been today, but the league extended it so that the two sides could have a telephone conference today to "try to find common ground to play the 1997 season."

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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