SUN Hockey Pool

Times have changed

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The writing was on the wall before the signatures were on the deal.

When the NHLPA decided to accept a salary cap rather than sit out another season, union chief Bob Goodenow was done.

They knew it and he knew it.

"The players said 'enough is enough let's get back to the game,' " said Edmonton Oilers player rep Steve Staios, after news of Goodenow's departure hit the streets.

"It's the best deal we could have gotten under the circumstances if we wanted to play hockey this year.

"Who knows how it would have changed if we stayed out, but not many players, as you saw by the vote, were willing to sacrifice the integrity of the game any longer."

Goodenow was, and it became clear that he and the players were no longer on the same page.

"We knew there was a change coming, we just didn't know how it would come about," said Staios. "I think we have to be thankful for Bob's leadership and not forget what he's done. But at the same time it is a new look and a new NHL."

Despite the difference in philosophy during the Cold War, Staios, like virtually all NHLPA members, says Goodenow was the best thing that happened to hockey players since the helmet.

"The players have made out very well under Bob Goodenow, we should never forget that. If you ask some of the older players, they could have only wished to have someone as strong as him as their leader.

"Before Bob came along all the revenues went to the owners. His leadership is why it changed the way it did. Obviously, it got out of hand and that's why we saw what we did this year.

"Now times have changed, the league has changed and we're under a new system. He felt like this was the right thing. I don't think this change will hurt at this time."

Now the focus shifts to Gary Bettman and whether he should step down as well.

"I think that's a really good question," said Staios. "I think it should be considered. I think we need the best guys to help grow this game on and off the ice, and is Gary the right guy to do that? I'm not sure."

Bettman fought hard for Edmonton, but a lot of his leadership decisions put small markets on the endangered species list in the first place. And negotiating a successful CBA and growing a league are two different animals.

The fact the NHL had to be begged into televising the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes, and when they did it looked like a funeral parlour ad on Cable 10, shows you the NHL brass has a lot of learning to do.

"Marketing this game is one place we've always been lacking behind the other leagues in a huge way," said Staios.

"If he hasn't done it up until this point, can he do it now? Maybe, but he hasn't proven it. I hope they just don't think that because Gary got a deal signed he should be the guy to lead them into this new era.

"And I hope Gary is honest about it like Bob was. If it's in the best interest of the league, hopefully he makes the right decision."


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