Owners versus players--the biggest game in NHL history--went into overtime Monday.
Less than an hour before the 9 a.m. PST strike deadline, Bob Goodenow, the NHL Players Assn. executive director, announced a 51-hour delay in the walkout to allow a vote by the league's nearly 500 players on management's latest offer.
Should the players turn down that offer, the walkout will occur at noon PST Wednesday. The players' negotiating committee is recommending rejection.
"I think if the players look at it, there won't be much change," Goodenow said. "Some teams did not want to extend the deadline, but the general feeling was to go back and allow every player to review all of the details of the status of the negotiations.
"One of our overriding concerns was that everybody understood what was transpiring. Because of the nature of the developments, we felt that this was simply not only the 1992 playoffs, but also a strike that could jeopardize the start of the following season."
The two sides have been at odds since their collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 15. Faced with a Monday strike deadline, negotiations finally heated up last week with the two sides meeting for 60 hours over a five-day span, the last session going 22 hours to nearly dawn Sunday morning.
That final session produced a proposal the owners labeled "their final offer." The players responded with a counteroffer later Sunday.
But the offer to be voted on is basically the one the owners left on the table Sunday. It is only a one-year offer, a stopgap measure to get through this season's playoffs.
Goodenow will supply players from all 22 clubs with written material and a video, detailing the differences in the proposals put forth by the two sides.
The players will then conduct a secret ballot on the offer. The final decision will be determined by a simple majority.
"We're not backing down," King player representative Marty McSorley said. "We're stepping away. We wanted to give every guy a say in their future. We wanted them to know what's on the table."
So what are differences between the two sides?
They have resolved free agency, once a major sticking point.
"Free agency is not a stumbling block," the Kings' Wayne Gretzky said.
Although neither side has released specifics, it is believed that licensing money from sales of items such as trading cards and the pension fund are now the main issues. Other matters of concern are the method of choosing an arbitrator for salary hearings, the size of the entry draft and the amount of the players' postseason revenue.
"As long as the strike is delayed," Gretzky said, "they can still talk. And that's good."
If they talk. No further negotiations have been scheduled.
There were no games scheduled for Monday, but the delay in the strike deadline will permit five games to be played today. That will leave five days of the regular season; the playoffs are scheduled to start April 8.