SUN Hockey Pool

Goodenow's last stand?

Islanders captain Michael Peca says it's not a time to be pointing fingers at the NHLPA bargaining...

Islanders captain Michael Peca says it's not a time to be pointing fingers at the NHLPA bargaining committee, which still may face some heat today. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Bob Goodenow has been battered, verbally abused and slagged the past few weeks.

You would expect him to receive that type of treatment from Gary Bettman, not his own membership.

But recent grumblings from the likes of Sean Avery and Jeremy Roenick toward Goodenow and the union executive had many high-profile players standing up for their leaders yesterday.

"You've got over 700 players with different opinions coming out and saying stuff that does not help the process," Kris Draper, a former teammate of Avery, said. "Guys jumped up and said things which, timing-wise, what not the best thing to do.

"(Bob and the executive) have been punching the clock, meeting something like 85 times to get something done, while we've been on the golf course."

In an effort to get NHLers off the greens and back on the ice, the players are expected to reluctantly ratify the proposed new collective bargaining agreement today, one that includes a hard salary cap the union's hierarchy once vowed would never get accepted.

Given that previous stance, emotions understandably were running high as more than 200 players met with Goodenow and the executive until after 1:30 a.m., to learn more about the CBA and air a number of concerns.

While stopping short of guaranteeing the CBA will be ratified later today, Maple Leafs player rep Bryan McCabe said the meeting "went well."

"A lot of questions were answered," he said. "The bottom line is I think everyone misses the game of hockey."

But will ratification be enough to keep this from being Goodenow's last stand?

Roenick told TSN that he believes Goodenow will quit.

"It (the salary cap) is not something he has been in favour of from the start," Roenick said. "I really think the players are going to vote it into the game and he is going to quit and go someplace else."

New York Islanders captain Michael Peca said it's time to face reality.

"Everybody doesn't have to feel great about this deal and everybody is entitled to their opinion," he said. "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.

"It's unfair for guys to start pointing the finger. It is what it is. Any deal we would have gotten was significantly worse than the one we came off. With Gary having his eight owners who could basically veto anything we wanted, it was an uphill battle."

One sore point with the players is the acceptance by the NHLPA to set up an escrow account that will pay money back from salaries to the league if expenses exceed 54% of revenues.

"I guess the players want to know why they're going to be forced to pay for Gary Bettman's mistakes," a prominent NHL agent said. "Not only are they going to get hit by a 24% rollback, they'll also be asked to pay 15% into an escrow account."

Meanwhile, St. Louis defenceman Chris Pronger denied reports he went behind the backs of the union hierarchy in Febuary along with the likes of Roenick and Jarome Iginla in an attempt to get a deal done

"I don't think anybody was trying to usurp leadership," he said.

Asked about Goodenow's fate, Pronger was non-committal. "That's not my decision right now," he said. "I'm here to look at this deal."


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