THE PEACEFUL WORLD OF HOCKEY
Hockey players don't always fight. Sometimes they negotiate, meekly. Consider their new five-year collective-bargaining agreement with NHL owners, approved by a player vote two weeks ago. In any other pro sport, union and management would have traded contract demands like roundhouse punches until one of the combatants hit the canvas. But the NHL Players Association, never too demanding, went right into a clinch. After some early talk of holding out for broader free-agent rights—"There is a greater chance than ever before that there will be a strike," NHLPA executive director Alan Eagleson had said ominously—the players settled for little more than an improved pension plan and came to terms almost two months in advance of a strike deadline. It was extraordinary: When push came to shove, nobody pushed and nobody shoved. "Have you ever played hearts?" asks player agent Art Kaminsky. "It's called a laydown."
The proceedings certainly seemed to be friendly. Eagleson, who has more than once been accused of being too cozy with team owners, said he was happy to avert a strike because, you know, the owners are having such a hard time making money. When was the last time you heard the head of a players union say that? In fact, perhaps the biggest concession the players got was the elimination of proposed mandatory drug testing—testing that Eagleson himself had advocated. ("I guess so," Eagleson told The Boston Globe earlier this year when asked if drug testing wasn't a possible violation of players' civil rights. "So is the law on seat belts, but I put mine on anyway.")
You would think it might bother NHL players that they are so limited in their movement. Because of a pricey compensation system that usually extracts cash and high draft choices from teams that sign away free agents, very few free agents have gone to different teams in recent years. But to the players, apparently, it's nothing to fight about.
'A MINOR DISASTER'
England's unruly soccer fans, whose violence has caused their nation's teams to be banned indefinitely from major European competition (SI, June 10, 1985, et seq.), shamed themselves again last week. About 120 of them fought with knives and bottles on a North Sea ferry while traveling to Holland to watch preseason matches involving teams from Manchester, Everton and West Ham. Five fans were seriously hurt and 14 arrested. Most of those involved had been drinking in the ship's tax-free bars.
English Football Association secretary Ted Croker called the incident "a minor disaster" that could set back for years England's hopes of reinstatement. Yet just three days later, rampaging Manchester fans in Amsterdam attacked a policewoman and trashed two restaurants and a tram. Ironically, the exhibitions in Holland were low-key practice games. The British term for them is "friendlies."
POUNDING WEMBLEY'S SACRED TURF
Speaking of England, what did British traditionalists really think of the Bears-Cowboys exhibition at Wembley Stadium two weeks ago? The day after the game, The Times of London called the Bears' 17-6 victory "almost incidental to the three-and-a-half hours of novelty, noise and relentless sideshows" and described American football as a sport "in which two teams of padded and helmet-ed carnivores, looking like extras from a low-budget space epic, run headlong into each other like rival stags at the rut." The Times found it disturbing that even before the game, "the sacred turf of Wembley" had "already been pounded by 36 pairs of boots belonging to the Dallas Cheerleaders, a troupe of thinly-clad synchronized gymnasts who expend a great deal more energy than the players."
The Times's conclusion: "American football is an occasion at which dancing girls, bands, tactical huddles and television commercial breaks are interrupted by short bursts of play."