A man who lost his way

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Somewhere in time, like far too many people of power, Bob Goodenow lost his way and compromised his own integrity.

Officially, he resigned his position as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association yesterday just days after insisting he wasn't going anywhere. His resignation would have been welcomed and congratulated had the idea actually been his.

But just like the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement, this was not a deal of his doing: Unofficially, Goodenow was pushed aside in the name of hockey progress by the very same and small player group that once worshipped at every word he spoke. He was pushed out and paid handsomely to get lost by his hand-picked executive, becoming the first non-player to get bought out in the new agreement.

LOUSY PARTNER

This is the apparent era of player-owner partnership in hockey and if the truth be told, Goodenow would make a lousy partner. He is remarkably adept as leader of the opposition. But if you don't want a fight, if you don't want a nasty battle, if you don't want threats and strife and tension, Goodenow is not your man. Not now. Not anymore.

His time came and went before his contract came to conclusion.

For years, Goodenow was the players' best friend. Salaries rose more than 550% in his 14 seasons in charge of the Players' Association. That's 39% a year for 14 years.

You can't question that kind of economic exuberance. It has been unparalleled in this professional sport or any other, considering the circumstances.

But Goodenow's success -- to push limits, to push players, to push agents, to push owners, to forever push -- was in the end his own and his members' undoing. He pushed the league to the brink of economic survival and the players pushed him out.

Over time, Goodenow knew only one speed, full. But then he misread his own game, his own membership, the entire tenor of this miscalculated negotiation with the NHL and for that this lost season was far more his doing than anyone else's.

His last gift to hockey was a season not played.

He was invited to negotiate more than two years prior to the expiration of the CBA and chose not to. He was invited to hire his own auditors to make sense of league economics and chose not to. His tactic of not negotiating -- and then giving up a 24% rollback along with a salary cap and along with linkage to revenues and along with the confusing escrow arrangement -- ended whatever credibility he may have had left with his own membership. And that was apparent even prior to the ratification of the recent collective bargaining agreement.

The fact Goodenow could hardly stomach the particulars of this deal and was still willing to stay on the job is indication of having squandered his ideals somewhere along the road. That, more than anything, is what new executive director Ted Saskin must step in and fix.

Goodenow was all about money and almost nothing else. The Players' Association, for too long, has been an organization without a soul. It dealt frivolously on issues of player safety (be it helmets or visors), encouraged union members to steal jobs from others while protecting their own, and maybe worse that all of that, never once at any time spoke out against the ludicrous certification of troubled player-agent David Frost.

OPPORTUNITY

Saskin has a grand opportunity now to mend fences, to bring divided players back together and work with the league to grow the game.

"The future is very bright for the sport and the people involved in it," said Goodenow, who wound up doing the right thing yesterday but for all the wrong reasons.


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