SUN Hockey Pool

Over to you, Gary

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

The expectation was Bob Goodenow would simply deliver a token offer yesterday, aimed largely at gaining the upper hand in a public-relations war.

He over-delivered.

Not that the owners would consider signing the CBA proposal as outlined by the NHL Players' Association boss yesterday but the mere fact the players have offered to make significant concessions is enough to put pressure back on ownership to respond in kind.

At the very least, what Goodenow's Gang offered up yesterday was the basis for the first meaningful discussions of this lockout.

It's the first sign of hope in 85 days of rhetoric.

Over to you, Gary Bettman.

Even the commissioner seemed a tad stunned by the proposal, which calls for players to chop 24% off all salaries effective immediately.

Initial media reports last week suggested the NHLPA may offer to lop off as much as 10% of their salaries, so when the number came in at more than double that, it was an attention-grabber to be sure.

A savvy PR victory, of sorts.

While everyone is a loser in this stalemate to date, public sentiment has long favoured the owners' stance on getting the game's finances back in order.

Now, for the very first time, the players have made a legitimate step towards solving the issue.

They've finally started the ball rolling again.

Make no mistake, what happened over the course of yesterday's meeting in Toronto was indeed a positive development.

No, it didn't address the owners' No. 1 concern -- a salary cap.

However, at this point, both sides know the importance of optics and neither wants to be known as the one responsible for the NHL's very first lost season.

Bettman's Bunch left yesterday's tete-a-tete with no option but to promise a counter offer.

They couldn't possibly have walked out and suggested once again both sides were speaking different languages.

The truth is, the players made significant concessions yesterday.

After months of denial, it's their first acknowledgement the game's economics are completely out of whack.

The salary rollback, a cap on entry-level performance bonuses and $1 billion in savings over six years is significant enough, let alone the meaningful efforts put forth towards reduced qualifying offers, new salary arbitration rules, a payroll tax and revenue sharing.

Although they're a long way away from ending this lockout and saving the season, you get the feeling the dance has only just begun.

Problem is, last call is fast approaching.

In Calgary, all Flames fans need to know is the rollback would likely mean the club could easily afford to re-sign Jarome Iginla long term.

Then again, if history is any indication, many GMs would simply use the newfound money on free agents, pushing salaries up sharply as they've done the last decade.

That's why the owners will respond Tuesday with the insistence of a cap -- to protect themselves from themselves.

That said, yesterday the NHLPA handed out hockey's equivalent to a Get Out of Jail Free card.

What Bettman decides to do with it will have a huge impact on public opinion.

He better respond in kind.

Right or wrong, suddenly the owners can come out looking like the bad guys.

In a fight where no winners may end up emerging, give this round to Goodenow.


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