NHL ray of hope sited

TORONTO - For the first time in the NHL lockout, there could be significant progress in the dispute.

Sources told The Canadian Press the NHL made a contract proposal that doesn't include a payroll tax, which has been a deal-breaker as far as players are concerned. The proposal may be too costly for the players but will likely be a starting point for negotiations to resume, probably next week.

Union head Bob Goodenow met with 49 player representatives, assistant player reps and six members of the NHLPA's bargaining committee. He was to meet today with more than 200 players.

Tomba wins 6th straight

LECH AM ARLBERG, Austria - Italian star Alberto Tomba won his fourth consecutive World Cup slalom of the season and sixth straight overall today, rallying to edge Austria's Thomas Sykora by 0.02 seconds.

Tomba, who trailed Sykora by 0.02 seconds after the first run, finished with a combined time of 1:43.57 for his 26th career slalom victory and 37th overall title, not counting a parallel slalom victory from 1988.

And in Alta Badia, Italy, Italy's Sabina Panzanini won her first World Cup title today, beating Austria's Anita Wachter by 0.47 seconds in a giant slalom.


Baseball talks focusing

WASHINGTON - For the first time since baseball shut down four months ago, there were signs that players and owners really want to make a deal. No breakthroughs occurred. But with less than 72 hours before the owners' twice-postponed deadline to impose a salary cap, there appeared to be more urgency to reach an agreement.

"There's plenty of time," Colorado chairman Jerry McMorris said after a one-on-one meeting with union head Donald Fehr. "I think it's possible. We're definitely feeling focused on the areas where we are apart."

As the strike went through its 131st day, the NLRB ruled against owners for the second time in less than a week, dismissing their unfair labor practice charge against players for allegedly making threats against potential strikebreakers.

Emmitt wants to play

IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys meet the New York Giants on Saturday, and Emmitt Smith wants to play. But Cowboy coaches don't want him to because the game means nothing to them in the standings.

Smith has an 82-game playing streak he doesn't want to see end.

"He has swelling in the hamstring and it's sore," said team physician Dr. Robert Vandermeer. "I would think he would have a good chance of being well by the first playoff game."

"I just want in for one play so I can keep my streak alive," Smith said. "They can let Troy Aikman throw the ball or something. I just want one play."

Indians, Astros each sign a player

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Indians re-signed shortstop Omar Vizquel, who agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract. Vizquel, 27, gets $2.85 million in 1995; the Indians have a $3.35 million option for '96 with a $150,000 buyout.

In Houston, the Astros re-signed free-agent outfielder Milt Thompson to a one-year contract for $525,000.

Hollywood Park Raiders?

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis is negotiating to build a privately financed 65,000-seat stadium at Hollywood Park, reports the Los Angeles Daily News.

Arkansas State player found fatally shot

KILDARE, Texas - Arkansas State linebacker Dedrick Greenleaf was found fatally shot in his car on a remote country road near his hometown. Deputies say Greenleaf, 20, was found in his car on a farm road about 150 miles east of Dallas.

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Vancouver, Toronto closer to NBA

NEW YORK - Expansion franchises in Vancouver and Toronto took a step toward joining the NBA by beating a Dec. 31 deadline for season-ticket sales.

Vancouver announced it had commitments for 12,624 season tickets, and Toronto was expected to announce today that it had reached the 12,500-ticket level mandated by the expansion agreement.

There are still requirements of the agreement, details of which are not disclosed by the NBA, that must be met by March 1. At that time, the teams must come up with the bulk of their $125 million franchise fees.

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