NHL Players and Owners Are Talking : Labor: Threat of strike eased as negotiations resume. McNall discusses the issues with his team.


It was a day for conciliation rather than confrontation, a day when threats to walk turned into meetings to talk.

In Toronto, Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHL Players Assn., resumed negotiations with a committee representing the owners. Those negotiations had broken off Monday, leaving the threat of a strike.

And here, the Kings' Bruce McNall became the first owner to address his team directly on the issues that have prevented the approval of a new collective bargaining agreement.

"I'm very hopeful," McNall said after giving the owners' position to the Kings during a meeting at their hotel. "Maybe I'm very naive, but as long as we're talking, I don't think there'll be a strike."

According to McNall, the owners have opened the books of all the teams to Goodenow. An accounting, McNall said, will show that 16 of the 22 teams are losing money.

Both McNall and General Manager Rogie Vachon denied a published report that Vachon threatened members of the Phoenix Roadrunners, a King farm team. According to the report, Vachon told the minor leaguers they would either agree to serve as replacement players, should the regulars walk out, or face suspension.

"I never said I would suspend anybody," Vachon said. "That would be totally against labor law."

What he did, Vachon said, was address the Roadrunners and ask how many would be interested in playing for the Kings should that become necessary. "There were no threats," McNall said.

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