Back to work

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

It's not the agreement they wanted or expected. And, in hindsight, it's certainly not a stack of paper that was worth losing millions of dollars in salary and the entire 2004-05 season over.

In fact, the new collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between NHL owners and the NHLPA, the deal that will be ratified by governors in New York today, has been characterized as a flat-out butt-kicking for Gary Bettman and his owners and a total fold by Bob Goodenow and his rank and file.

Call the six-year pact that'll be the blueprint for the future of the NHL what you will, and think of it in terms of players taking a kicking if you must, but the bottom line is it's the best agreement they were going to get.

Resigned to that, Ethan Moreau of the Edmonton Oilers and his teammates dusted themselves off yesterday with the rest of the NHLPA membership and voted overwhelmingly to get back to work.

"The owners played it really well," said Moreau.

"There's no resentment. They did what they wanted to do. They had an idea. They wanted a certain system and they got it. They played the game and they did it well.

"The downside is we lost the year, but once we're through it, I believe that, with the strength of our game and the things they've said they're going to do, we should be in pretty good shape in three or four years."

What else, given the deal contains a 24% salary rollback and a $39-million salary cap with linkage to revenues - something Goodenow said he'd never accept - are the players supposed to say?

For players like Moreau, what happens next is what matters. It's not, he'll tell you, about winning every fight. It's about showing up. If the other guy gets the better of it, you skate to the box, wipe the blood off your face and get ready for the gate to swing open again. That's a fundamental trait of the men who play the game, and one that's both maddening and endearing.

"Saying we got screwed in the media or pointing fingers at Bob, that just insults the intelligence of the union," Moreau said. "It's like arguing about a call in a game. What are you going to do about it?"

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know Goodenow and his membership bit off more than they could chew. Goodenow believed owners would knuckle under and he could win, as did many of the players, but Moreau knew how this would turn out.

Sometimes, though, you still drop the gloves and go. "The way we've been compensated for the last decade has been as good as any professional sport," Moreau said. "You have to realize that and know with the position we were in, there was going to be a correction.

"With the amount of money guys have made, you should be thankful and not pissed off. There was going to be a correction and everybody knew it was coming."

Owners will rubber-stamp the CBA today, hold a lottery for the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes and, hopefully, get on with forging the new partnership that's been talked about.

Of course, everybody will say the right things, just like Bettman and Goodenow did while sitting side by side in Toronto yesterday. It's what happens during the term of the agreement that'll tell the tale.

"The thing now is to try to shed a positive light back on the game," Moreau said. "If you're a player, carry yourself in a manner where fans are going to want to get on board again.

"The more negative things, the more we sound, for lack of a better word, like idiots, isn't going to help ... Whether we like it or not, we're linked to the product. Our livelihood depends on it."


Videos

Photos