SUN Hockey Pool

Bob missed the net

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

The season is over and so are Bob Goodenow's chances of getting the best deal possible for his clients.

The NHL players lost more than anyone when the season was cancelled yesterday, meaning their leader, by definition, was the biggest loser in North America.

He certainly came across that way at his press conference. The bully whose union has had its way with ownership for well over a decade tried in vain to point the finger at the other side.

It didn't work.

No one could possibly believe people such as Jarome Iginla, who essentially lost upwards of $6 million US in salary yesterday, will be able to recoup a dime of that.

Nor can anyone imagine commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners will ever again offer up a $42.5 million team salary cap given the financial state the NHL will be in whenever it returns.

"The best deal that was on the table is now gone," said Bettman, setting up an even uglier battle he insists will now have to include linkage.

After fruitlessly testing the owners' resolve for months by lying about "never" accepting a cap system, Goodenow buckled two nights before D-Day and tabled a laughable $52-million figure. The move should have been made months ago.

Instead, his last-minute offer of $49 million missed the point completely. Had he moved to $45 million, Bettman would have at least had something to think about.

He wouldn't, which is probably a good thing in the long run for Alberta hockey fans who can blame the NHL's sorry economic state on the last-minute CBA deal inked to save the 1994-95 season.

Perhaps Goodenow needed to be reminded back in September the three main goals of his clients: 1. Playing hockey; 2. Getting the most money they could; 3. Playing in a healthy league. Goodenow ensured none of those objectives were met yesterday -- nor will they be now that his issue of mistrust has ensured the players are the last ones on Earth who realize the NHL needs a major financial fix.

In a league without meaningful TV revenue, where some fourth-line players make more than team owners, the players have long defended their salaries by saying it was the owners' prerogative to write them massive cheques. No question.

However, now it's the owners' prerogative to stop writing them. Therefore, the onus is on Goodenow and the players to get over their issues of mistrust and find a solution.

Taking their cue from Goodenow, the players blamed Bettman for the mess. The reality is, they were the ones who couldn't see fit to split $42.5 million amongst 23 players and make ends meet. This, in a second-tier sports league.

"I hope when this is over they think this was worth it," said Bettman.

"I don't see how they can."

The Flames will only lose $5 million to $6 million this year, which is less than Iggy alone coughed up.

The owners have all the money and time in the world to wait out the players on this one -- the fact that the players didn't realize it cost them all boatloads of money yesterday. Good work, Bobby.

Perhaps the owners haven't bent as much as the players have but they don't have to.

It's not a partnership nor will it ever be. It's the owners who run the league, not the players and their agents anymore.

After years of being backed into a corner by a CBA the owners admit they never should have signed, it's time to make amends. With heavy hearts, it was the owners who apologized to fans yesterday for the most embarrassing day in hockey lore.

Truth is, it's Goodenow who should be saying sorry. Not just to fans but to his employers.


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