SUN Hockey Pool

NHLPA's collapse complete

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

The collapse of the NHL Players' Association began in February.

It was completed yesterday.

Desperate to get a new collective bargaining agreement in place with the season going down the tubes, a group of powerful players held conversations with NHL VP Bill Daly in February about the possibility of accepting a salary cap.

The group, believed to have included the likes of Chris Pronger, Jarome Iginla, Jeremy Roenick and Robert Esche, asked the players if they could accept a cap.

Backed into a corner, union boss Bob Goodenow had no choice but to go to the NHL and negotiate a link between revenues and expenses. Not because he wanted to, but because the membership demanded it.

Goodenow and his executive committee of president Trevor Linden and senior director Ted Saskin were no longer dealing from a position of strength and surrendering to commissioner Gary Bettman became inevitable.

That's why it was not a shock yesterday when the NHL and the union completed a marathon negotiating session with a new CBA, which sources say includes a hard salary cap of $39 million (all terms US) and a 54% link between revenues and expenses.

"A LONG YEAR"

"I'm just glad we're going to get back to playing," said Senators centre Todd White. "I don't know what the deal looks like so I can't comment on what's in it, but this has been a long year for everybody. I"ll be looking forward to get back on the ice."

It's likely the players could have gotten a better deal if they had accepted a $42.5-million cap during a meeting that included Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky on Feb. 19, but the reality is there was no chance a deal of this magnitude could have been wrapped up in a short period of time.

The players can't help but feel like they lost as they lick their wounds. They'll get the news straight from Goodenow during meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday in Toronto. After listening to the details, they'll vote.

"You have to see what's in the deal before you say what way you are going to vote," said Senators winger Martin Havlat, who has been working out at the University of Ottawa with prospects from Octagon Hockey.

"We don't know what's in (the deal), so I can't tell you whether to write that I'm going to vote yes or no. I'm glad that they have a tentative deal. Now, I have to go to the meeting in Toronto and see everything that is in it. Then, we can go from there and decide.

"The players will have a big decision to make."

FOUGHT GOOD FIGHT

Really, there is no chance this deal is going to get voted down. The players have fought the good fight, but they've waited long enough. The time has come for them to get ready for camp in September.

It's all about harsh realities. And the reality is this is about as good as it's going to get for the players.

"I don't think the guys will say no to it," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. "We've got to get back to work. Guys are looking forward to playing and I believe the guys are going to vote for this.

"When this all started, we knew that we had to put trust in our executive committee to get this done for us.

"They aren't going to come back to us with a deal they believe we wouldn't accept. I would think everybody will be excited about getting back to playing."

Was this all worth it for the players?

"I don't think it was worth it for anybody involved," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "One side can sit there and say they won or got what they wanted, but I don't really think there were any winners in this process because we lost a year of hockey.

"What we have to do is try to look at this as an opportunity to help grow the game. If we help grow the game and market it properly, then both sides can be winners out of this.

"Everybody is excited about getting back to playing the games. The last year was tough."

Tough for the owners.

Tough for the players.

And tough for the fans.

Drop the puck. And let's move on.


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