Bob Goodenow has issued a stern warning to the NHL: Put up or shut up. Sources say the Players' Association boss didn't mince his words, telling NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during a 90-minute meeting on Friday in Toronto that the onus is on the owners to get a deal done.
A league source said Goodenow told Bettman the owners had better give the players "a deal they can't refuse" to end the NHL lockout, because the players don't feel any pressure to accept a collective bargaining agreement they don't like.
Sources also say the next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at a location that will be determined by the league -- but it's expected to take place in New York.
"My understanding is it was a very frank and honest discussion," said a league source. "Goodenow made it perfectly clear that the union is not willing to accept just anything and (that) the league had better offer a good deal.
"Goodenow told the league he's willing to meet with them any time they want and he's willing to listen to what they have to say, but the players feel like they've done everything they can to get a deal done. Now, Bettman has to try to come up with a way to get this resolved."
Since the league flatly rejected the union's offer of a 24% rollback on players' salaries in December and the union refused the owners' offer of a $42.5-million US salary cap last month, the two sides are now back at square one.
There were no new proposals tabled by either side during Friday's session, but there's talk owners will make a new offer without a link to revenues -- although there is one hitch.
"What Bettman told the players is that linkage will remain off the table until June 1. If they don't want linkage, then they've only got a short period of time to get a deal done. My belief is that's a pressure tactic," said a source.
Sources say Bettman told the players he wants a deal done quickly in an effort to save the start of next season so the league can sell season tickets, work on corporate sales and get broadcast deals in place.
There are owners who have told Bettman they believe replacement players would be a catastrophe and he's being pressure to get a deal done.
Several players, meanwhile, have also made a similar request of Goodenow because they don't want to be sitting out next September.