Bob Goodenow and Ted Saskin kidded each other yesterday about starting in 1990 "in a broom closet on Maitland St. with two-and-a-half employees."
The rise and fall of their tenure in the National Hockey League Players Association was completed yesterday, with Goodenow swept out as executive director after losing the salary cap war and his constituents' confidence. Saskin, the union's No. 2 man, will now guide 700 players through the next six years of the new collective bargaining agreement, a deal which some say strained the two union leaders' relationship at the end.
A week after indicating he would stay on, Goodenow abruptly resigned yesterday afternoon at the same downtown hotel where he'd delivered some his strongest anti-cap rhetoric to commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners. At a post-lockout meeting of the players' executive committee, it was decided to make a change, though Goodenow's staunch opposition to the cap in the face of collapsing player support likely made such a move inevitable.
"Like the old saying, if it feels good and looks good, do it," Goodenow said of his decision. "My contract (with a little less than three years remaining), would not have made it through to (the next CBA). We all said rather than have a change that we knew would happen down the road, now's an ideal situation with the new agreement to have one person (Saskin) step in and form the strategy. I said that was fine with me."
Goodenow was bought out of the remainder of his deal, which was $2.5 million US per season.
Saskin's business expertise, together with former lawyer/player agent Goodenow's hardball tactics, made the Toronto-based union a rich and powerful entity. Saskin played down any fallout between the two towards the end of the lockout.
"At times there were disagreements on a host of complicated issues, but I think that's healthy," said Saskin. "In 15 years, we've had our differences of opinions, but we've worked well together."
Each man went through the pain of losing his mother during critical stages of the 301-day lockout.
"It's key to hand off the baton with no slippage," Goodenow said. "Ted knows the operation well, and the CBA extraordinarily well."
Goodenow was partly to blame for shutting down the game for a year, damage that won't be fully assessed for months or years. But under his direction, players saw their average salaries jump more than triple from $368,000 to around $1.8 million under the previous CBA. A brief players' strike in 1992 showed the league that Goodenow would not be as chummy with them as predecessor Alan Eagleson,
Some owners who've butted heads with Goodenow were no doubt dancing on their desks at yesterday's news, but Goodenow does not believe the new CBA will go down as his Waterloo.
"I believe the agreement is a good one and I don't see it as a personal failure," he said. "History will decide. The litmus test will be how well (league) revenues are developed."