Start could be delayed to Nov. 1


LOS ANGELES -- The start of the NHL season is likely to be delayed again, until Nov. 1 or later, unless a still-unfinished proposal by the players association is accepted by the league's Board of Governors on Tuesday in New York.

If the plan isn't submitted Monday -- a spokesman for the NHLPA said yesterday only that it "probably will be" -- or if a proposal is made and the league rejects it, the governors are expected to push the start of the season back from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1.

"I think we're getting real tight for Oct. 15," said Jack Ferreira, general manager of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. "What I want " to know is, why is it taking until Monday if they want to make a deal? That's the big question."

Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHLPA, has been working on a plan since Wednesday, when he rejected two NHL proposals that featured a 3 percent levy on the gate receipts of the top 16 revenue-making clubs and a gradual levy on payrolls to generate financial support for small-market clubs.

Goodenow, whose negotiating tactics and unwillingness to compromise were criticized by several management negotiators, objected to the plans on the grounds that they would restrict players' salaries.

The union's last proposal included flat levies of 5.5 percent on the top 16 clubs' gate receipts and payrolls. The NHL has said that wouldn't generate enough money.

Other thorny issues, such as arbitration and free agency, must also be resolved as part of a new agreement.

"These are complicated matters," Goodenow said in explaining the lapse between talks.

Playing a full schedule remains possible with a Nov. 1 start. Cliff Fletcher, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, told the Toronto Sun the 168 postponed games could be added onto the end of the schedule. The playoffs would be condensed by playing on some back-to-back days instead of on alternate days, and would conclude in early July. The seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals last season was June 14, latest in history.

"Our goal, if we can reach a suitable agreement, is to play an 84-game season," said Joe Cohen, the Los Angeles Kings' majority owner and chairman. "It must be an agreement everyone could live with.

"[Starting Nov. 1] hasn't been discussed with me. I talked to someone in Montreal, where they make the schedule, because I wanted to know next season's starting date so I could book exhibition games. He told me he'd like to know when this season is going to start."

After being told by Goodenow that he hadn't completed the union's proposal yesterday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman updated league governors by conference call. He told them to gather Tuesday in New York, where they will "decide on an appropriate course of action."

Two other factors endangering an Oct. 15 start are the need to reassemble players and to get them back into playing condition. Players ceased working out Sept. 30, after Bettman announced he would not allow the season to start without a new agreement.

"Let's be realistic. Players have to skate for three or four days before you could even consider playing," Cohen said, "and some teams have to travel. We're fortunate because the 15th is a home game for us, but the team we're playing is from Boston.

"It's a possibility, still. How good a possibility? I'll tell you Tuesday."

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