Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Free-Spending Blues, Nhl Are Strange Allies Quinn, Keenan Appeal to Players That the Rules Must Be Changed

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Free-Spending Blues, Nhl Are Strange Allies Quinn, Keenan Appeal to Players That the Rules Must Be Changed

Article excerpt

Blues President Jack Quinn invited general manager and coach Mike Keenan to have a seat in his office during a meeting with a reporter Wednesday afternoon.

Keenan declined.

"I'd rather stand," he said, pacing back and forth as if he were behind the Blues' player bench. "I should be coaching."

If the National Hockey League season had started as scheduled, on Oct. 1, Keenan would be five games into his tenure as Blues coach.

Instead of discussing the NHL's labor problems with Quinn and a solitary reporter Wednesday afternoon, he would have been fending off dozens of New York reporters in town tirelessly analyzing the Blues' grudge match against the Rangers tonight at Kiel Center.

But Kiel Center will be dark tonight. Just as it was Tuesday, when the Blues were supposed to have played Chicago in the first hockey game in their new $135 million home. Just as it will be for the foreseeable future.

Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, predicted a long fight after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman put the season on hold Tuesday. After rejecting the players' latest proposal for a collective bargaining agreement, Bettman said the board of governors had voted to delay the start of the season until a new agreement with the players is in place.

The vote, taken after a four-hour meeting in New York City, was unanimous, with Quinn and Keenan casting the Blues' vote.

The Blues and the league are strange allies in this dispute with the players, considering the Blues' maverick approach to operating their team in a more liberal and free-spending style than their conservative compatriots.

But in what turned out to be an impassioned, hour-long plea for understanding, Quinn and Keenan insisted that the Blues were in full agreement with the league's bargaining position and its decision to suspend play until an agreement is reached.

This despite Quinn's admission that "you'd have to think we're nuts."

"This is not in the best interest of our fans, our investors, our association, our community," Quinn said. "Personally, I'm depressed about it. We have one of the best buildings in North America. We have the best coach in hockey. We have one of the top five teams in the league. We have some of the league's most exciting stars.

"We'd love to be playing. It's troublesome that we're not playing."

But absolutely necessary for the league's future, he added.

"We'd like the NHLPA to recognize that we want to be good partners and that the pendulum has swung way, way out of line," Quinn said. "We're saying to the players, `Fellas, you're already (taking) in far more than 50-50 (of revenue). We're trying to tell you to slow down. You can't have Christmas every year.' "

With the owners as Santa Claus, salaries have risen dramatically since the 1989-90 season. According to league figures, player costs have risen an average of 21 percent per season, while revenue has grown only 10 percent per season. …

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