The final obstacle facing the merger of the NHL and WHA was cleared last week when the NHL Players Association voted its approval of the deal. Surprisingly, the players got relatively little in return, and there is a growing suspicion that the association's executive director, Alan Eagleson, may have let the owners off the hook. Eagleson has long been under fire for his conflicting interests; he promotes hockey games and serves as an agent to individual players as well as directing the association. As rival agent Art Kaminsky put it, "It is my impression that he represented the interests of Alan Eagleson, the owners and the players—in that order. And the players were a poor third."
In return for supporting the merger, which will end the bidding wars that hugely enriched hockey players during the past seven years, the NHLPA was expected to demand a new collective bargaining agreement similar to baseball's, in which a club that signs a free agent is not required to compensate his former club with a player of equal ability. It is the present equal-compensation provision that has effectively put an end to hockey's free-agent market.
After surprisingly brief debate, the players instead agreed to abide by the existing collective bargaining agreement for at least three more years and to accept token payments totaling $7.25 million over the next five years toward their pension, medical and dental plans and also the playoff pots.
Boston's Mike Milbury, the only player rep to vote against the proposal, says, "We went in with a strong bargaining position but now we have lost our only alternative market. We let slip a chance we'll never have again."
Why the accusations that Eagleson sold out? Because the NHL owners have given him control of the marketing of future events between the NHL and such international teams as the U.S.S.R. all-stars—an incredibly lucrative proposition. To be sure, the players' pension plan will benefit from this arrangement, too, as Eagleson will, but the deal has nonetheless left Eagleson open to all sorts of accusations about whose best interests he is seeking. Clearly, it's time for him to doff one of his many hats. "I've tried to resign from the NHLPA four times," he says. "They always refuse the resignation."
It's high time the players accepted it.
Score one for the bikini. At its annual meeting, the AAU Swimming Rules Committee sanctioned the wearing of the two-piece racing suit for women in short-course (25-yard-pool) competition. The suit had been introduced at the AIAW championships by the record-breaking Stanford 200-yard medley relay team (SCORECARD, April 9). Puritans take heart, though. Lest you think the powers that be have abandoned all propriety in pursuit of faster times, be advised that, according to Rules Chairman William Lippman, "The competitive costume must still be nontransparent and conform to the current concept of the appropriate."
HOT DIGGITY DOG!
Score one for the consumer. Last Thursday San Francisco's Recreation and Park Commission voted to roll back by a nickel the price of hot dogs sold in Candlestick Park. Once again the red hots are 75� apiece, just as they were until July 1978, when the commission authorized a price increase at the behest of Candlestick concessionaires (SCORECARD, April 16). Ron Gordon, the high school biology teacher who had led the battle against the increase, received encouragement during his year-long fight from, among others, Barry Bosworth, director of the President's Council on Wage and Price Stability, and Alfred E. Kahn, adviser to President Carter on inflation, who termed Gordon's efforts "heroic and unflagging." They were also costly. Gordon spent some $1,600 of his own money to alert the press to the "Wienergate" crisis.