SUN Hockey Pool

Bettman divides, conquers NHLPA

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Whether the NHL season is cancelled today, commissioner Gary Bettman has already scored one big goal with the lockout: He has divided the NHL Players' Association.

As both sides worked last night to avoid having Bettman cancel the season at a press conference today in New York, union boss Bob Goodenow's authority was being called into question.

While the possibility of a deal was far from certain, the NHLPA's decision to accept a salary cap left a number of players red-faced and wondering why the union would decide to bend over backward at the 11th hour.

"I think we gave up too much," Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek told The Score yesterday.

And Hasek wasn't the only one feeling that way. Sources say the NHLPA's private website -- The Source -- was flooded with messages from union members who were frustrated by the union's offer to accept a $52-million cap.

'EMBARRASSED'

"I am thoroughly embarrassed with the union," said one veteran player. "We've been preaching for five months that we're not going to accept a cap and then we have the rug pulled out from under us at the end.

"How the hell do you think I feel? What did we go through all this for? We come out and propose a hard cap at the end. That was something we said we would never accept. I just can't believe it."

Sources also say many players are upset with an initiative by Chris Pronger, Jarome Iginla, Jeremy Roenick and Robert Esche to push the union to accept a cap.

The word around the league is two players -- possibly Pronger and Esche -- placed calls to NHL VP Bill Daly on the weekend directly to see what it would take to get a deal done, which further irritated NHLPA members.

Now that the NHLPA has collapsed on the issue of a hard salary cap -- although it wasn't willing to accept one with a link to revenue -- there's some sense there are players who were nervous about what the future held if the season was cancelled.

According to Roenick, the group was trying to gauge whether players would accept a hard cap. And while Roenick and friends didn't write the actual proposal that was made Monday, they played a role -- another thing that irked NHLPA brethren, many of whom ripped into them on the union's website.

"We probably could've gotten this thing done in the summertime," Chicago forward Matthew Barnaby told reporters yesterday near Buffalo. "Am I mad, no? I want to get back to work. But at the same time, I'm just a little disappointed that it went this far to play poker and to have someone call your bluff."

There's word some players may have insinuated they would make a move to get Goodenow removed from his post if something wasn't done by the union to avoid Bettman's plan of bringing in replacement players.

"We've been saying all along, 'No cap, No cap,' and that's part of negotiations," Senators defenceman Wade Redden said from Edmonton. "It just seems to me that we've been giving and giving and it's got to stop some place.

REDDEN 'SURPRISED'

"I just hope that this gets a deal done. We've been the ones willing to negotiate throughout this whole thing because we just want to play the game. It's pretty obvious how important it is we feel about playing. It was just surprising to hear everything changed (about accepting a cap) ... that's for sure."

Today, they'll find out if efforts to save the season are successful.


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