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NHL scores a first, losing the season

Owners, players fail to resolve salary dispute

`Our fans deserved better'

February 17, 2005|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

With a series of faxed proposals and letters between Bettman and Goodenow Tuesday night, the sides got their salary cap offers to within $6.5 million. The NHL's final offer was $42.5 million and the players' was $49 million, but that gulf proved to be too wide.

Bettman said the gap was not as close as it seemed. Multiplied by 30 teams, the difference amounted to nearly $200 million, "and we just didn't have that to give."

Goodenow said it was wrong for Bettman to assume that every team's payroll would bump up against the salary cap.

"That is not the case at all," Goodenow said. "The number of teams that would have been affected ... was not significant. I believe it would have been about nine teams."

In the end, Bettman said, the NHL decided that $42.5 million was as high as it could go.

"You can always say, `Meet in the middle,'" Bettman said. "But if the union had started at $60 million, should we meet in the middle?

"I believe we would have lost money for the first two seasons under what we had last proposed, but that was our attempt. At some point, you have to say, `This has to stop.'"

Bettman did say later, though, that if the union had come back and proposed a salary cap of $44 million to $45 million, there might have been a different result.

"There's only so many times you can beat your head against the wall," he said. "If they wanted $45 million, I'm not saying we would have gone there, but they sure should have told us. It would have been incumbent upon them to tell us that that's what it was to make a deal."

Steve Yzerman, one of the NHL's longtime stars, held out hope that a miracle was still possible.

"If you read into what [Bettman] said, it sounds like there is still an opportunity to get things done," the Detroit Red Wings captain told the Associated Press. "The principals are there to make a deal, so I still think something can happen in the next day or two, because we're really not that far apart."

But the two principals did not hold out the same hope. When negotiations resume, they said, it will be from square one.

"I think it's a fresh start and everything is off the table," Goodenow said. "It's a totally new environment. That much is for sure."

Bettman said any deal the NHL proposes in the future will have to link league revenues and players' salaries. The best deal that was on the table is now gone, he said.

"Nobody knows what the damage to the sport will be," Bettman said. "Nobody knows what revenues we can count on. I suspect we're going to have to do a lot with our business partners, with our fans in terms of ticket prices."

The lockout is the second in the past 10 years for the NHL. The first delayed the start of the 1994-1995 season for 105 days.

The last time the Stanley Cup was not awarded was 1919, when a flu epidemic that killed at least 20 million worldwide forced the cancellation of the series.

Labor disputes have interrupted other professional sports seasons. Major League Baseball has endured eight significant strikes or lockouts since 1972. . The last time the National Football League's players went on strike was 1987. On July 1, 1998, the National Basketball Association locked out its players until Jan. 20, 1999.

"The scary part now for hockey is, do the fans come back?" Nashville Predators forward Jim McKenzie told the Associated Press. "We're not baseball, we're not the national pastime."

Major sports lockouts and strikes

April 1, 1972: Major League Baseball players strike, which cancels 86 regular-season games that are not made up. The season starts April 15, and teams play between 153 and 156 games.

Feb. 14, 1973: MLB owners lock players out of spring training camps, but an agreement is reached 11 days later.

March 1, 1976: MLB owners lock players out of spring training again. Lockout lasts until March 17, when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn orders the camps open. No regular season games are missed.

April 1, 1980: MLB players strike. The last eight days of the exhibition season are lost, but not any regular season games.

June 12, 1981: Players call first midseason strike in MLB history. After 50 days and 712 canceled games, the strike ends on July 31.

Sept. 20, 1982: NFL players go on strike for 57 days; 98 regular-season games are canceled. The season resumes Nov. 21.

Aug. 6, 1985: MLB players stage one-day strike. Games resume Aug. 8.

Sept. 22, 1987: NFL players go on strike, and what would have been the third week of games is canceled. But the NFL resumes games the next week, Oct. 4, with replacement players. On Oct. 15, after more than 100 players had crossed the picket lines, the NFL Players Association told all its players to return to work, but the league doesn't allow them to play that weekend, pointing to the danger of injury. After three weeks of replacement games, all regular players were back on the field Oct. 25.

Feb. 15, 1990: MLB owners lock out players for 32 days. Although the season starts a week late, all 78 games that were missed are rescheduled.

April 1, 1992: NHL players strike for 10 days. All 30 missed games are rescheduled.

Aug. 12, 1994: MLB players strike for the remainder of the season, canceling 669 games. For the first time since 1904, the World Series is canceled. The strike lasts until April 2, 1995, what had been scheduled to be Opening Day. The season starts April 25, with each team playing 144-game schedules.

Oct. 1, 1994: NHL owners lock out players. The lockout ends Jan. 11, 1995, after 468 games were lost. Each team played a 48-game regular season.

July 1, 1995: NBA owners lock out players, but the dispute is settled Sept. 12, nearly three weeks before training camps were scheduled to open. No games lost.

July 1, 1998: NBA owners lock out players. An agreement comes Jan. 20, 1999, after 464 games are lost. Each team plays a 50-game schedule.

Source: wire services

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