Saturday, July 30, 2005

14 Good years

"And there are winners, and there are losers, but that ain't no big deal" John Mellencamp. Pink Houses 1983.

Perhaps that song was running through Bob Goodenow's head the other day as he gave his farewell address to the NHLPA and the press. Goodenow stepped aside as president of the Players Association, less than a week after stating that he was in for the long haul.

With a day to process the development the sports media have taken a rather conciliatory and warm and fuzzy look at his stewardship of the NHLPA and perhaps that's not too far off the mark. While Goodenow certainly did not win this last battle with the NHL and in the end it appears that the players rose up as one and shot down his plans for staying course, he has over the years lifted his organization up to previously unattainable gains. Damien Cox of the Star, has done an excellent job of tracing Goodenow's influence in the game.

When he came on board as NHLPA president the association was a bit of a mess after the Alan Eagleson years, of course Goodenow himself had a lot to do with the Eagle's ouster but in the end that does not seem to have been a bad thing. Eagleson had treated the association as more of fiefdom, where he dictated the rules and the players tagged along and not in a very rewarding fashion financially we might add.

The Goodenow regime of fourteen of fifteen years in the corner office has seen his membership make far more money than many of them may ever have imagined. The previous two contract sessions were very much in the players favour and the ancillary revenues generated by the Players association all combined to make the NHLPA membership a rather wealthy group for the most part.

The pendulum swung back the other way a few weeks ago and perhaps it was greed that resulted in that, the players misjudged the resolve of the owners group as did Goodenow. The softening of their stance in February emboldened Gary Bettman and the owners to stay their course and from that point on the battle was lost. The players in the end had no more stomach for a lengthy battle and while Goodenow felt that they would eventually win in reality they had already lost. At that point the union leader had lost the membership and the decision of two days ago was already cast.

In the end the players accepted the salary restructuring and lost a year of salary too boot, that unfortunately for Bob Goodenow will be the legacy of the great hockey war. But as pointed out in many of the articles the last few days that might be a poor interpretation, the accomplishments of the NHLPA in reshaping the game of hockey in the last fifteen years both good and bad are directly attributed to Bob Goodenow. But to trash his lengthy influence based on one negotiation that did not go the players way is wrong. It's just too bad we all had to suffer such a lengthy rite of passage.

As the music stops playing he may have on last song on his mind

"I fight authority and authority always wins,
I been doing it since I was a young kid and I come out grinnin',
I fight authority, Authority always wins"
Authority Song-John Mellencamp 1983

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