Ice Hockey: Gretzky fears lock-out: NHL faces salary conflict

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

WAYNE GRETZKY said he fears that a possible lock-out of National Hockey League players in the wake of the baseball strike will be especially damaging to ice hockey in north America.

'I just think that since our sport is on the upswing it would be the wrong time for us not to be playing hockey with the baseball situation what it is,' Gretzky said from the Los Angeles Kings' training camp. 'It would be tough for us to lose a lot of new fans at this point because fans are fed up with labour squabbles.'

Training camps throughout the NHL are open, but only under the cloud of a possible lock-out of the players before the start of the regular season on 1 October if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached.

Management and player representatives are expected to hold bargaining sessions next week in an effort to reach a new agreement.

The main stumbling block between the two sides has been what the players have termed management's insistence on a salary cap. Bob Goodenow, the executive director of the players' association, has said that there will be no agreement that includes anything resembling a limit on salaries.

Team owners have avoided using the term 'salary cap,' but they insist that some type of redistribution of revenues must be worked out in order to help smaller clubs.

The NHL's last collective bargaining agreement was worked out during the first strike in the history of the league, in April 1992. However, the NHL went through all of last season without an agreement with its players.