SUN Hockey Pool

Goodenow has got to go

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Bob Goodenow made a monumental miscalculation that almost certainly will result in his dismissal as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association.

Goodenow's inability to work with his own executive council -- and his unending belief the NHL would capitulate to his terms -- will cost him his job, leaving his union embittered and fractured in the process.

When the NHLPA turned down Gary Bettman's final offer -- as opposed to his other final offers -- it walked away from an arrangement it will never see again.That action alone has splintered the union membership, leading to various individual players calling the league yesterday to reopen discussions.

Apparently, after Goodenow reluctantly agreed to a salary cap, the executive council wanted to negotiate off a $46-million US figure. Goodenow went against their wishes and made the offer at $52 million.

In the end, the players were more akin to making a deal than their union leader was and now they are left asking: What's next?

If you believe that NHL owners easily again will abandon cost certainty after losing a season, think again.

If you believe that they again will offer up a $42.5-million salary cap, you are dreaming.

The difficulty now -- not just for the players, but for the owners -- is the fight for credibility.

Not with the public -- both sides have lost that -- but within their own fraternity.

Not only are players upset with Goodenow, there are rumblings that Goodenow and chief negotiator Ted Saskin aren't on the same page, there are players angry about the end-run attempt made by Jarome Iginla, Chris Pronger, Martin St. Louis and Jeremy Roenick. There seems splintered animosity all over.

How does Goodenow convince his membership now that he can make a better deal in August or September or next December than they could have had Wednesday?

Better yet, how does he convince them to keep his job when he seemed to sell so many of them out in the process?

After the Wednesday afternoon cancellation of the season, the level of mistrust and confusion had grown rapidly. Of the 700-plus members of the NHLPA, only 288 have contracts for next season.

Only 112 players have contracts that would carry them to the 2006-07 season. Only 26 players have contracts that carry into 2007-08.

If you are an unsigned NHL player, what are you thinking today?

And without any system in place, and without any assurance of what the new system will bring, there are 432 men who don't have a league or a team to call their own.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

And of those 432, how many have played their final NHL game? Sixty? Seventy? One hundred? One fifty? The game of musical chairs is certain to be played out and who will be left without a place to sit is a matter open to speculation.

What went wrong?

Goodenow assumed, as he always has, that he would win. He couldn't allow himself to think otherwise.

He assumed the owners would be enticed by his salary rollbacks. Typically, he waited until the absolute last moment before playing his hand -- and serving up a cap he never wanted.

This time, he waited too long and in the end acted on his own.

Both sides waited too long.

And if either can learn from his mistaken tactics here then expediency has to be the strategy for both sides.

There isn't time to waste. They can't carry this into September without a deal. They can't further destroy what little is left of the game and the league.

We now know that both sides have positions that aren't inflexible and that their threats and their rhetoric cannot be taken seriously.

We know now that what the players want and what Goodenow wants aren't the same thing.

He is no longer acting in the best interest of his players.

It's why he has to go. It's why the players -- to have any hope of a future -- must force him out.


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