Goodenow takes a beating

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

The discouraging whisper came from one of the people who has been in on the hockey negotiations, with the story rarely changing, only the subplots.

"The deal will get done when Bob (Goodenow) wants it to get done and not before."

Bob Goodenow, having sold out his membership with a flawed strategy, having done an about-face on so many issues he should consider working for Paul Martin in his next life, now is fighting for his own reputation.

Or whatever may be left of it.

The most remarkable aspect of Goodenow's ill-fated battle with the National Hockey League and Gary Bettman is how he has miraculously maintained the trust of his fractured membership when everything he had the players believing in has gone awry.

Maybe that says as much about hockey players as a group and their willingness to stand up for themselves as it does about Goodenow's phenomenal leadership skills. Maybe it has been one dynamic working with the other, but as a deal grows imminently closer and the lawyers from both sides continue to try to pinpoint what exactly is revenue and what isn't, the largest stumbling block to a collective bargaining agreement remains the apparent split within the players themselves.

At various times throughout these negotiations, there has been the belief that Goodenow and his chief negotiator, Ted Saskin, have stopped talking to each other. At various times, there have been rumblings that Players' Association president Trevor Linden and Goodenow had battled angrily over the direction to take in negotiations.

Some players will tell you this is absolute truth and some will tell you it is absolute nonsense.

Even now, as yet another artificial deadline of June 15 looms to get a deal done there is Goodenow not willing to back-pedal any more than he already has while there are those within his membership who have lost patience and faith and want a deal done yesterday.

Goodenow, to either his credit or discredit, is not your typical bully. He doesn't cry when he takes a hit. But being unfamiliar with not getting his way, he has taken a severe beating at the table over the past several months and still has the temerity to refuse to back down.

That is Goodenow at his best and worst.

Maybe he can't allow himself to acknowledge defeat in any way. Maybe that's not in him. But really, the only thing he has to lose is what's left of his reputation. He has three more years remaining on his contract at a minimum of $3.5 million US a year. If the players want to punt him, all it will cost them is $10.5 million.

And considering what already has been lost, that might have been a wise investment nine months ago.

The deal the players will eventually agree to will roll their salaries back 24%, involve a sliding salary cap at limits lower than would have been negotiated in December and include the kind of linkage they fought so loudly against.

In other words, the players have lost at every turn, giving and giving and giving some more back -- and all along it was Goodenow who assumed rather inaccurately that the owners, as has been their custom, would capitulate.

Now it's a question of conceding defeat and getting on with the process of rebuilding a sport, a business and the public trust all at the same time.

Bob Goodenow, like all good captains and forever full of bravado (among other things), has gone down with the ship.

Problem is, rather than determining it is time to come up for air, he's instead drowning himself, his constituents and what's left of the game all at the very same time.

In the final rounds of this negotiated mismatch, Goodenow still is throwing roundhouse rights.

Only the scorecard indicates that Goodenow has no hope of victory.


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