SUN Hockey Pool

Putting on a happy face

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

TORONTO -- During the NHL playoffs, a losing team tries to smile when it shakes hands with the winners.

That's how the 2005-06 season officially kicked off yesterday with NHL Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow smiling through gritted teeth as he shook hands with commissioner Gary Bettman for the cameras.

While the rubber stamp won't be put on the deal until the NHL board of governors meets today, the collective bargaining agreement cleared its biggest hurdle as 88% of the players approved it.

"The time has come to move forward," said NHLPA president Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks. "What we have to do now is try to grow this game. We're partners now and we have to work together.

'END OF A FIGHT'

"This is like the end of a fight on the ice when the two guys fighting tap each other on the pads after it's all over.

"I don't think anybody ever wanted to lose the season. It was a tragedy and it shouldn't have happened. Now, we have to do what we can to make this game better."

"This is a good deal and one everybody can live with," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, a VP on the union's executive committee.

Several players indicated NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow's position could be reviewed down the road. It should also be noted he might be asked to take a 24% rollback similar to the players.

"I don't think that this is (Goodenow's) deal," said Ottawa centre Mike Fisher. "I just don't think this is a deal he would have wanted because we took a salary cap."

Goodenow says he has no plans to leave the NHLPA.

CONTRACT WITH PLAYERS

"I've got a contract with the players. I have no vision or idea of any change whatsoever," said Goodenow, who is believed to make $2.5 million (all figures US) a season.

The biggest question is: Why did the NHLPA collapse on the issue of a salary cap which will be between $21.5-to-$39 million?

"The No. 1 issue was finding a way to find out what all the revenues are," said NHLPA VP Bill Guerin. "(Senior director) Ted Saskin did a good job of making sure that we know where all the revenues are coming from and it's at a point where we're comfortable and we believe economically we'll be fine."

Bettman tried to paint a rosy picture for the league, which will open for business with camps in September.

"We stand here and look forward to the opportunity to take our game to new heights and work in a partnership," said Bettman. "I am optimistic that we will be able to get the attention back where it belongs on the ice and celebrate with our great fans."


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