Deal doesn't mean ratification

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

NHL players will not be happy. While they're going to be thrilled to get back to work once a collective bargaining agreement is in place with the NHL, sources say they'll be left wondering what happened in their prolonged fight with the league once they sit down and look at the guts of the new deal.

As lawyers on both sides continued to negotiate and go through the paperwork of the CBA late last night in New York, there's a nervous anticipation about how the players are going to react to the deal when it's announced.

Once that happens -- possibly as early as today -- the owners will be summoned to New York for a board of governors' meeting to approve the deal, while the players are expected to have a similar session in Toronto.

The CBA will be a tough sell to the union because it contains a hard salary cap, an escrow account for players to pay into if revenues don't meet the league's expectations and a revenue-sharing program that doesn't appear to be overly meaningful.

For obvious reasons, nobody in the union will like the deal because the pot of money available to players is going to shrink. They've had it good for 10 years and many are going to take a heavy financial blow once the details of the CBA are revealed.

The question is: Will the players support it?

"If it means having no hockey next year, then I would think most (players) will vote for it because they want to get back to playing," said one NHL veteran. "It's not realistic to think this deal is going to get voted down.

"I'm sure some guys aren't going to be happy with the deal. We said we'd never take a hard salary cap with a link to revenues and we are, but a lot of guys are of the opinion they want to get back to playing. A lot of people have lost a lot of money and suffered some hardship because of this."

Yes, the reality is it's time to get back to playing hockey, but you have to wonder what the leadership of the NHL Players' Association is going to look like once a truce in "War of 2004" is finally reached.

COMMITTEE SPLIT?

There are whispers the union's executive committee -- led by executive director Bob Goodenow, senior director Ted Saskin and president Trevor Linden -- has been divided by these negotiations.

It's believed a few members of the bargaining committee don't support the way the negotiations have been handled and there are rumblings some of them could resign before a ratification vote takes place.

If that happens, it could send shockwaves through the union and change the face of the ratification vote, but it seems doubtful with hockey this close to being back on the ice that a majority of the players would walk away.

"The union can't sit there and tell anybody if this deal gets voted down, the next one is going to be better," said a league source.

What will be interesting to watch is the number of players who actually show up for the union's meeting in Toronto. A vote will be done privately and electronically through the NHLPA's website, which means players in Europe don't have to come to North America.

But if it did get voted down, the executive committee -- which includes Linden, VPs Bill Guerin, Vincent Damphousse, Daniel Alfredsson, Bob Boughner, Trent Klatt and Arturs Irbe -- would all likely resign.

Then, Goodenow -- who sources say doesn't agree with the deal being negotiated -- could take control of the union, put a new executive committee in place and start the process all over again.

"That whole scenario seems a little far-fetched to me," said another veteran player. "It's fine to say that Goodenow could urge these players not to vote for the deal, but everybody just wants to get back on the ice and back to work."


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