Bruins owner takes shots at NHLPA

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs chose a strange way to welcome the return of hockey on Saturday night.

In what began as a statement of apology to fans following the lockout, the chairman of the NHL's Board of Governors made a bizarre about-face in his pregame news conference as he took deliberate shots at the NHL Players' Association in the wake of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Jacobs, regarded as one of the most militant hard-line owners driving the lockout, appeared to blame the union for a deal not getting done sooner, saying it "should've and could've" been resolved quicker and characterized it as "disappointing."

Of the union, Jacobs said: "There was no expression of a desire to make a deal."

When asked to elaborate how a deal could have been brokered earlier -- the labor standoff lasted almost four months before an agreement was reached earlier this month -- Jacobs deflected blame onto the NHLPA.

"You'd really have to ask the other side on that," he said.

Jacobs said the players were going to get "very rich" under the deal that was ultimately reached.

"The players are going to get very rich under this transaction," he said. "They were very rich going into this. They passed up $700 million in payroll. That's a lot. And I'm hopeful that it was fulfilling."

When asked if he felt that it was fair to say he blamed the union for the time lost as a result of the work stoppage, Jacobs declined to answer.

"I won't comment on that," he said.

It was an odd display for an owner who claimed to be enthused about the start of play and intent on "winning another Stanley Cup for Boston, New England and Bruins fans around the world."

Jacobs praised his partner in the process, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, for his work on the deal and touted his leadership in reaching the 10-year agreement.

"He's probably brought a little bit of an abrasive personality with him," Jacobs said. "Not everyone loves him. And that's understood. But he's done a yeoman's job and worked his butt off. You can't outwork Gary. And for that, I'm very happy that he was there. This agreement would not have gotten done without Gary there."

Jacobs admitted that, before the marathon session that ultimately ended the standoff, there was a legitimate fear among owners that the season would be scrapped entirely.

"If it hadn't happened when it did, the season would've been gone," he said.

Jacobs insisted that, as owner of a financially strong, recent Cup-winning franchise, he had no intention of ever axing the season.

"I'm the last guy that wanted to shut this down," he said.

How did he feel he was characterized throughout the negotiation process?

"Being vilified, I don't think it's right, but what's my opinion in something like this?" he asked.