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NHL Players' New Proposal Might Spur Return to Ice

October 10, 1994|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The contents of a proposal to be presented to the NHL by the players' association today in Toronto will largely determine whether the season will start Saturday or will be postponed again, to Nov. 1 or later.

A source on the players' side of the contract dispute said Sunday that calling the plan significantly different from previous versions "would be an excellent way of describing it."

In that case, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman--who has said he would have to see "meaningful" movement before allowing the season to start--might declare enough progress has been made. When he meets with the league's Board of Governors on Tuesday in New York, he could accept a no-strike, no-lockout pledge the union made Sept. 29 and get backing for a Saturday start.

However, a league source said the new offering won't differ greatly from its last proposal. That plan centered on subsidizing small-market clubs with a fund created by a levy of 5.5% on the gate receipts and payrolls of the 16 top-revenue clubs. The league rejected that as inadequate.

If the plan isn't much different, the governors will reject it and delay the season openers again.

Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHLPA, has been working on his plan since Wednesday, when he rejected two NHL proposals. Those addressed the small-market problem by imposing a 3% levy on the gate receipts of the top 16 revenue clubs and a gradual levy on payrolls of a half-percent per million dollars up to $14 million and after that, 5% for each $325,000. Players said that system would keep salaries low.

Two other key issues remain. The sides agree on most aspects of broadening free agency, but they differ on salary arbitration. Players want it, but the NHL wants to abolish it.

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