SUN Hockey Pool

Let's move forward

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

They've taken a licking and come back ticking a time or two in the heat of battle out on the ice.

And Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith of the Edmonton Oilers insist they'll do likewise now that the marathon donnybrook that was the NHL lockout is a ratification vote away from being over.

Given leaked details about the tentative CBA arrived at yesterday, it's obvious owners got the better of Bob Goodenow's NHLPA rank and file in the slugfest at the bargaining table, but that's not the point.

DONE DEAL

With a vote by both sides needed to make the tentative six-year pact a done deal, Smyth and Smith say it's time for all parties to lick their wounds and concentrate on growing the game and winning back fans. It'll take an ice bag or two, but let the healing begin.

"Getting the game on the ice where it belongs is the important thing," said Smith, the Oilers captain and player rep. "Now, we have that opportunity.

"It's imperative that the moment this is ratified, the next step is to rebuild the game and rebuild the fan base and not dwell on the past. Let's heal the battle scars and move forward."

The way Smyth sees it, the only way to mitigate the damage done since Gary Bettman locked players out is to get over any ill will and put teeth into the talk about owners and players working in a partnership.

"We've got to get this game back to where it should be," Smyth said.

"Can we get it back? No question. Is it going to take awhile? Yes, it will. We have to win the fans back, energize the rinks again and get right back at it."

Did players want a 24% rollback in pay? No. Did they want a salary cap of $39 million? Absolutely not.

The players insisted they were philosophically opposed to a salary cap of any kind. But, having bent, if not broken, on several issues after the resolve of the owners became clear, it became just as obvious the deal on the table now is as good as it's going to get.

"It's up to every team and every player to market the game and get it back to where it was," said Cory Cross. "It's a game, but it's also a multimillion-dollar business. Unfortunately, businesses go through things like this. The key is how you bounce back.

"You say sorry to each other, but then you have to move on. When the deal is done we have to see how we can make the game better."

None of the Oilers contacted yesterday talked about being "brainwashed," as was suggested by Sean Avery last week.

"I had full faith in the committee," Smyth said. "I backed those guys because I know they did their best for 700 players and they were out for our best interests. Of course, there's 700 players who have their opinions, too.

"We're all grown men. I think you sometimes speak before you think, but everybody has their opinion."

None of the Oilers contacted suggested fans should kiss their backsides, as intimated by Jeremy Roenick. Kiss and make up was the sentiment.

REBUILD IT

"As much damage has been done to the game, we can turn this around and rebuild it," said Smith, who'll have his salary cut to $1.976 million.

"There's give and take. Whether you're buying a car or negotiating contracts for teachers, there's a process and there's some ill feelings. The important thing is to move forward."

Cross knows there'll be some resentment by fans, and he understands that.

"We have great fans," he said. "They feel like the team is part of their family. When the game's not in their living rooms, it's like there's a loss there. I hope everybody can come back and forget about the crap that's gone on. It's time to turn the page."

Is that a "yes" vote to the tentative deal?

"I don't see this being turned down," Smyth said. "Missing one year was hard enough on all of us."


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