Once again, the National Hockey League has delayed discussion of the fate of the Colorado Rockies.
The reconvening of the Feb. 9 Board of Governors meeting in Washington, when owner Peter Gilbert asked permission to move his Rockies to the New Jersey Meadowlands, has been reset for May 18 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
A meeting scheduled for Chicago last Monday was delayed until this coming Monday, and that was changed yesterday. A league spokesman said there was no significance to the shift, that the Chicago site had become obsolete when the Black Hawks were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and the New York meeting would be tied to the fifth game of the Cup final.
NHL sources indicated, however, that the delays were caused by arm twisting designed to effect a solution to the Colorado problem before the more important June discussions with the players regarding the collective bargaining agreement. A player strike in September still is possible, if the issue of compensation for free agents is not settled.
Although Gilbert has expressed optimism that the league will approve his move to the Meadowlands, there seems to be no way he could meet the indemnification demands of teams with territorial rights in the area. An educated guess has put these requirements as $12 million to the New York Islanders, $8 million to the New York Rangers and $4 million to the Philadelphia Flyers.
It appears more likely that Gilbert is hoping to obtain approval for a shift so that the value of his franchise will escalate. Having secured a Meadowlands base, he could sell to one of two groups believed to have the necessary interest and capital.
A merger of the Rockies and Washington Capitals is considered a last-resort solution, should all other attempts to resolve the Colorado situation fail.