BERNE, Switzerland -- The political changes sweeping Eastern Europe have cleared the way for the debut of professional hockey's newest league to include East Berlin and Prague, the chairman of the fledgling Global Hockey League anounced Saturday.
Toronto businessman Michael J. Gobuty outlined plans for the GHL lineup which is due to begin play Nov. 1 in Europe and North America, during a rest day at the World Hockey Championships.
Until the projected spring, 1991, start of the NFL-backed World League of American Football, the GHL will be the first and only professional sports league to play an intercontinental schedule.
'The changes in the East have helped us,' said Gobuty. 'We believe this expansion will be a very major development for hockey.'
The GHL confirmed European franchises in Lyon, France; Milan, Italy; Rotterdam, Holland; Prague, and East Berlin.
North American teams for the 60-game kickoff season will come from Albany, N.Y., Providence, R.I., Los Angeles, Miami, and the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Ontario, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
'The GHL has in the past few weeks been completing the awarding for franchises and formlating a business plan which includes a unique approach to professional sport,' Gobuty said.
Gobuty said the GHL will introduce several major changes in the way hockey is played in an effort to speedup the game and cut down on penalties.
They include eliminating the center red line; playing two 30-minute periods as opposed to the traditional three 20-minute sessions; moving the goal three feet closer to the blue line; ending ties with a shootout as in soccer, and awarding penalty shots for high-sticking fouls.
'We want to clean up hockey and make it a faster and entertaining game,' Gobuty said.
The chairman, who was involved in the World Hockey Association before it merged with the powerful NHL, said that his group will not 'raid the NHL for talent.'
'We will create our own stars, we won't be raiding the NHL to take their players,' he said.
According to Gobuty, all teams will share equally in television profits -- network contract negotiations are set to begin soon -- corporate sponsorship income, and money from novelty sales and rink billboard advertising.
'Our greatest attribute will be our marketing,' he said. 'If you put a pencil to it, the dollars involved could be huge.'
The GHL has scheduled a player draft for the first week of June, likely in Lyon. Draftable players will include graduating college seniors, pros playing in Europe, NHL players whose contracts expire and eligible juniors.
The league will have a team salary cap of $2.3 million, according to Gobuty, who added that average player salaries should be around $115,000 with the minimum between $60,000 and $70,000.
'This league will create 500 jobs for players, managers and coaches,' he said. 'We will use international rules and larger international ice where possible.
'We're very optimistic, everything seems right to us for a start.
'But we're not thinking about being a rival to the NHL -- they play hockey and we play hockey, that's where the similarity ends.'