Burke softens stance

JON COOK -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

When he worked for the NHL, Brian Burke was a diehard proponent of a salary cap.

Now a hockey analyst with the CBC, Burke still believes a cap is the best solution to rectify the NHL's competitive imbalance, but not at all costs.

"Having been a GM in Canada I want a hard cap too, but if we're not going to get that, or if we're only going to get that by losing a year of hockey, I don't think this industry can sustain that type of price," said the former Vancouver Canucks' general manager on The Topcat Sports Show yesterday.

Burke said that type of hard-line stance on behalf of the owners could irreparably harm the league and severely reduce revenues.

"That type of warfare would be a purulent victory for the owners," Burke told the Philadelphia-based sports show. "It would earn the undying hatred of the players and we'd have a cap (but) we would have gone from a $2-billion industry to a $1-billion industry."

Burke also chastised NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA chairman Bob Goodenow for allowing their egos to interfere with the successful negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement.

"At this time of emergency anyone who wants to be remembered as the quarterback, that's vanity that we don't need."

Burke also reiterated his '15-point plan,' originally aired on Hockey Night In Canada last week, to help resolve the current impasse between NHL owners and players.

Burke's plan calls for a "salary threshold" where teams would all have a payroll minimum of $33 million and a maximum of $38 million. Any teams with payrolls above the maximum would pay a luxury tax or fine as follows:

  • 1st million = $0.50 on the dollar

  • 2nd million = $1 per dollar

  • 3rd million = $2 per dollar

  • 4th million = $3 per dollar

  • 5th million or more = $5 per dollar

    Burke said his payroll numbers were flexible, but would definitely align player salaries with league revenues. "You would have to figure out what the hockey revenues are and (adjust) the players' percentage to come up with that," Burke told HNIC.

    NHL Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne has suggested that hockey icons like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux need to get involved to help end the stalemate and Burke was asked if he thought they would promote his plan.

    "I don't care if they use my proposal," Burke told Topcat Sports. "It's a very severe tax on the threshold limit - once you've crossed that limit. I don't like the term 'luxury tax' because I think it's insulting to the players - players are not a luxury - but there has to be a system that somehow limits the ability of bigger-market teams to blow away the smaller-market teams. Revenue sharing will help, but you also need a control on spending."

    Player union representative Ted Saskin said Burke's plan was worth "exploring," but described it as being basically the same plan Burke proposed during the 1994 lockout as a member of the NHL's front office.

    "We see it as a middle ground," Saskin told Topcat Sports. "I'm not saying the points in Brian's outline represent the middle ground, but we're prepared to talk about anything frankly other than a salary cap."

    However Saskin warned that the luxury tax percentages couldn't be so severe that the deal would work the same as a hard salary cap.

    "If the tax rates are too punitive and confiscatory they amount to a defacto cap. We haven't been able to engage the league in any meaningful dialogue on what appropriate rates would be in a luxury-tax system, but it's certainly a dialogue we'd be pleased to have."

  • Listen to Brian Burke on The Topcat Sports Show, courtesy of sportsology.net

  • Listen to Ted Saskin on The Topcat Sports Show, courtesy of sportsology.net

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