Bob Goodenow will need an extra large lasso in the coming months as the danger of players straying from the herd increases.
Though the union's executive director has done a remarkable job keeping dissension among 750 players to a minimum in the five-month lockout, the union riled its membership by adopting a salary cap on top of its 24% salary rollback. With no new deal resulting from those moves and the prospect of no hockey next year, either, harmony could be hard to keep in the house at College Park.
"There's no doubt it will be harder in six months," NHLPA vice-president Bill Guerin said yesterday. "We talk about 24%, but this year it's become a 100% rollback for us.
"A lot of guys were blind-sided (by the cap flip-flop), as it was difficult for us to do. We're the first (sports) union ever to offer a cap and get turned down. But next year, we'll have to rely on each other to get us through. It's part of the process."
As the original deadline from the league approached this past weekend, senior players, reportedly including non-union execs Jarome Iginla and Chris Pronger, made their own peace initiatives.
"Our players have the ability (to initiate conversations) with anyone," an unperturbed Goodenow said. "I can't comment because I don't know what went on in those (player/league) conversations. It doesn't impact on (the executive). We have our jobs to do. I know the players would never do anything to jeopardize the cause."
Goodenow, already held in low esteem by fans, suspected league skullduggery was at the root of a PA image problem.
"It is indeed unfortunate in the course of these negotiations that the league has tried through mutiple public relations initiatives to paint the players as being greedy, etc.," he said. "The players have never asked for more money. This is about a fair deal. If you want to talk about greed, I'd suggest you ask that question of the other side."
Goodenow and commissioner Gary Bettman were also quizzed on whether they'd underestimated each other's team in the course of the past few years, their second CBA tussle.
"We knew when it comes to fierce competitors, whatever the battle, there's nobody more determined than a hockey player," Bettman said.
"They spend their careers fighting each other, backing each other up and being loyal to the team. We never underestimated them."