But although Jacobs said he “wanted nothing more than to have the season start on time,” he placed the blame for the lack of a deal on the players.
He said the deal the two sides eventually agreed to was “pretty much substantially” the same as the one that owners made to save an 82-game season.
So why didn’t a deal happen?
“You’d really have to ask the other side that,” he said.
“Nobody won. But more importantly, nobody lost at this point,” he said. “This is a game, and we did hurt the game.”
Jacobs has widely been seen as one of the forces behind the decision to lock the players out and then draw out the dispute. He denied that he was a hard-liner, saying he put the good of the league ahead of his own interest in keeping the players on the ice.
“I’m coming off winning a Stanley Cup (in 2011). I’ve got a sold-out building. I have a financially sound business. No Debt. Ownership for 37 years,” he said. “I’m the last guy that wants to shut this down — absolutely the last one out there.
“Unfortunately, I play in a league with 30 teams. And when I step back and look at what’s going on with the broadest sense of the league, I’ve got to play a role constructively in that way. ... To be vilified, I don’t think is right. But what’s my opinion in something like that?”
Jacobs said he spoke with the players before the game and didn’t feel any resentment for his role in the lockout.
He also expressed confidence in the leadership of commissioner Gary Bettman, who has now presided over a 48-game season in 1994-95, a canceled season in 2004-05 and another lockout-shortened season this year.
“I work with him and I’m a big fan so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask,” Jacobs said. “I think Gary will stay commissioner. I’m 73 next week; I’m going to stick around as long as they want me, but I can see them wanting to get a fresher mind than mine.”