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MIGHTY DUCKS / ’94-'95 PREVIEW : Owners, Players in Labor Standoff

TIMES STAFF WRITER

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced last week that the regular season would not begin unless a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. As of Thursday’s deadline for this section, there was no such agreement and Bettman was expected to postpone the season’s opening.

The Mighty Ducks are scheduled to begin the 1994-95 season Saturday on the road against the Dallas Stars.

Thursday’s developments included an offer by the players to sign a pledge not to strike if the games and contract talks continued.

At issue is a better way to spread the wealth among the 26 teams. The league and the NHL Players Assn. are at odds on how best to accomplish this. The league wants the players to bear some responsibility, perhaps including a cap on player salaries. Players are opposed to any plan they believe restricts salaries.

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So far, Bettman, representing NHL owners, and Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHLPA, haven’t been able to bridge the gap.

The two sides also met Monday and Tuesday for a total of 15 hours, but were no closer to an agreement than when they began talking.

In the last few days, a dark cloud of pessimism has gathered at training camp sites.

Exhibition games have ended with players lining up to shake hands in a show of solidarity.

Wednesday’s waiver draft was postponed indefinitely by Bettman. Under league rules, it must be conducted within seven days of the start of the season. It will be rescheduled when the starting date is certain.

Last week, when Bettman made the announcement regarding the start of the regular season, he denied the players would be locked out. But it’s simply a matter of semantics.

Last weekend, Goodenow, in a letter to players, said he believes an agreement is impossible by Saturday.

Players, who have been without a contract since Sept. 15, 1993, say they are willing to play under the same conditions as last season.

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Bettman and the owners are concerned that the players would strike at the end of the season, wiping out the playoffs in much the same manner as the baseball players’ strike forced cancellation of the World Series.


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