SUN Hockey Pool

Sorry the hardest word

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Nobody said they were sorry.

Bob Goodenow didn't apologize to the fans or the players for hockey's lost season.

The players, who were programmed to answer questions with the same "no salary cap, no linkage" robotic answers of last season, were all out there yesterday with their "better deal than we could have had in February" memorized mantra.

It was sickening.

Goodenow thanked the fans "for their patience for a whole winter without hockey."

Goodenow said of the new agreement: "I think it's going to work fine."

Bettman spoke of "the world's best fans and world's best athletes" and "world's greatest game" less than 24 hours before going to New York to make about 50 years' worth of changes to the game to try to make it worth watching again.

Couldn't somebody have said sorry?

Couldn't somebody have admitted that the players ended up with a salary cap, linkage, money in escrow, a 24% salary rollback, etc., etc., etc., and lost an entire year of hockey - for nothing. So much of the deal had leaked ahead of time, the only real question was how Bob Goodenow would react.

Given the opportunity to volunteer to take his own 24% pay cut in front of a nationally televised TV press conference, he brushed the reporter's question off. If I were one of the 87% of the players who ratified the deal yesterday, and especially one of the 13% who didn't, I'd have a problem with that.

I'D HAVE A PROBLEM

If I were a player, I'd have a problem with Goodenow failing to come out, say sorry and admit he totally misread the will of the owners. I'd have a problem with his failure to admit he'd taken them all into a catastrophically miscalculated gigantic game of chicken and lost.

The idea of everybody up there suddenly trying to be good buddies going forward together, hand in hand, on this wonderful new, good-for-everybody-especially-the-game-and-the-fans stuff was really hard to stomach. Especially from Goodenow.

"We're fully committed to the new deal and we anticipate great success for the game to go forward," said Goodenow.

So what was 2004-05 all about, then?

With a smarmy smile on his face at times, Goodenow did everything but send the message to the players that if they wanted to get rid of him, he had a nice big contract and would be expecting a nice, fat buyout.

After failing them. Miserably.

And he's the face of them. Everytime you see Bob Goodenow's mug from now forward (and he did a really good job of showing it to anybody for the last four months), you will be reminded to think badly of the players again.

The bottom line is the day it was all settled, you had every reason to be furious at the players and their great leader one last time, even though 87% of them were finally doing the right thing.

A lot of people are going to remember for a long, long time, as they try to worm their way back into your hearts, that they failed to say they were sorry with the hockey world (at least in Canada) watching.

Solidarity to the end was more important to them than saying sorry to the people who still are the ones who put the money in their pockets and are now going to be asked to line up like trained pigs and waddle off to the rinks to keep making them rich, just not quite as rich.

The good news is that while you felt like kicking a hockey player and putting your boots to their leader one more time yesterday, the cure comes today.

BIGGEST NEWS OF ALL

In one afternoon, the NHL is going to provide an unprecedented number of major news stories, including the biggest news of all: the winner of the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes.

Some of us were of the opinion that Bettman could have held a hockey media convention in New York for the next two weeks and supplied a big story of the day every day.

But after the players' pathetic performance yesterday, I understand why he'd want to dump the whole works of it out there in one, gigantic, glorious bit of business to try to bury the past all at once.


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