NHLPA leader Goodenow leaves after 15 years

TORONTO -- Accepting a salary cap was the last thing Bob Goodenow did as head of the NHL players' association.

One week after his union took a deal that included just about everything he had vowed to fight, Goodenow is out. He and the union reached a settlement on the two years left on his contract.

"I sat down with members of the executive committee and we talked about the future," Goodenow said Thursday. "The decision was made that it would be best if we made the transition now."

The new labor deal -- which Goodenow admitted he was not thrilled with -- ended a lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

Ted Saskin, the union's senior director of business affairs and licensing, succeeds Goodenow as executive director and general counsel.

NHL players overwhelmingly approved the labor contract last Thursday. Still, many were unhappy that a full season was lost and the union ended up accepting a salary cap anyway.

"After talking to the players and knowing what the setup was going to be for the next six years, it makes a lot of sense to make the change now," Goodenow said.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman vowed clubs would have "cost certainty" -- a hard salary cap tied to league revenues -- before the lockout began last September. Goodenow promised that he would never agree to either. But when the deal was signed, he was forced to accept both.

"I have always respected Bob's tenacity, passion and professionalism, and I wish him well in his future endeavors. We congratulate Ted and look forward to working with him," Bettman said in a statement Thursday.

Philadelphia forward Sami Kapanen said he thought the union's decision to agree to a salary cap contributed to Goodenow's departure.

"The players decided to accept the cap and get back on the ice, but I don't think that's what Bob was looking for," Kapanen said. "I know that not all the players are happy with the negotiations."

Kapanen said Goodenow tried to prepare the players for a holdout that could've been as long as a couple years, but the players just weren't able to commit to a lengthy holdout.

"It was so easy before anything started out to say that it was going to take 18 months or a couple of years," Kapanen said. "But once you get into it and see how much you miss playing and how much the game is suffering, something needed to be done."

Goodenow led the union during a time when player salaries skyrocketed from an average of $271,000 in the early '90s to $1.8 million before the lockout. NHLPA president Trevor Linden spoke warmly of Goodenow in the statement announcing his departure.

"Every NHL player has benefited enormously from Bob's leadership and dedication. He has been a tireless advocate for the players and he dramatically improved the players' situation in every respect," said Linden, a 16-year veteran.

Goodenow's departure caught Buffalo goalie Martin Biron by surprise.

"I'm a little shocked right now. I personally had a lot of faith in what Bob was going to be able to do and what he did. There was some criticism, but I didn't think that he deserved all that criticism," Biron said.

"I don't put any blame on him," he said. "Everybody was on the same page for the longest time. Why is it now that, 'He's the one that led us down the wrong path'? No. He set up a strategy. It didn't work out the way we thought it would be. He took a lot of heat."