TORONTO -- Will this be Bob Goodenow's last stand?
The executive director of the NHL Players' Association has made a career out of winning battles, but he could face one of the most difficult of his career today after the union, as expected, approves the dreaded salary cap that Goodenow vowed it would never accept.
The new collective bargaining agreement is expected to be approved by a wide margin when more than 700 players cast their ballots today. The results will be announced at 5 p.m.
Sources say the players were armed with tough questions about the cap during their first glimpse of the CBA last night. They also wanted an explanation why the NHLPA has agreed to set up an escrow account that will pay back money from players' salaries to the NHL if league expenses exceed 54% of revenues.
"I guess the players want to know why they're going to be forced to pay for (commissioner) Gary Bettman's mistakes," said a league source. "Not only are they going to get hit by a 24% (salary) rollback, they'll also be asked to pay 15% into an escrow account."
Still, with the players anxious to return to the ice in September, the deal is certain to be okayed.
"Everybody doesn't have to feel great about this deal and everybody is entitled to their opinion," New York Islanders captain Michael Peca said yesterday. "But it's obvious to everybody this will pass and we're going to have to live under this system for the next six years."
The next question is what happens to Goodenow. The speculation is he doesn't agree with the deal, which means he'll either resign, have his contract bought out or stay to try to get his house back in order.
Jeremy Roenick, for one, believes Goodenow will quit if the agreement is ratified.
"It (the salary cap) is not something he's been in favour of from the start," Roenick, the outspoken Philadelphia Flyers veteran, said on TSN's Off The Record yesterday. "I really think the players are going to vote it into the game and he's going to quit and go someplace else."
But if Goodenow -- along with senior director Ted Saskin, president Trevor Linden and the executive committee, which includes Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson -- was going to face any heat, it wasn't apparent yesterday as about 230 players headed to the information session held at a Toronto hotel.
"It's unfair for guys to start pointing the finger. It is what it is," Peca said. "Any deal we would have gotten was significantly worse than the one we came off.
"With Gary (Bettman) having his eight owners who could basically veto anything we wanted, it was a tough battle ... an uphill battle. We tried to go in a certain direction and I thought the executive committee did a great job."
St. Louis Blues centre Doug Weight doesn't have any sympathy for Goodenow's detractors.
"I don't think it's going to help anybody to say we could have done this last year or we could have done that. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback," said Weight.
Senators forwards Jason Spezza, Bryan Smolinski and Mike Fisher along with defencemen Chris Phillips and Wade Redden attended the meeting. All are looking forward to playing again.
"Once you get on the ice, this deal isn't going to mean anything," said Spezza. "We won't be thinking about this deal at all. I think everybody just wants to get back to playing hockey."