After months of speculation the NHLPA finally named Donald Fehr, 62, its executive director on Saturday.
The NHLPA has had instability at the top for years — it’s had four different men in charge since 2005 — so the players finally hired an intense negotiator that has had plenty of success with labour stoppages.
Fehr has a reputation for being a tough negotiator and with the NHL collective bargaining agreement set to expire following the 2011-12 season, this hire is clear warning sign that there’s a difficult road ahead.
Prior to joining the NHLPA Fehr served as the executive director for the MLBPA for 33 years and led them through the 1994 lockout and World Series cancellation. In the end, he helped professional baseball players earn more money than ever before, but was seen by some as a villain who cost fans half a baseball season.
NHL players were led through the 2004 lockout by Bob Goodenow, who is no longer with the organisation. Though the players’ situations have improved in some areas, many felt that they “lost” the 2004 lockout. Thus, they were determined to get a more powerful negotiator in place to help negotiate the new CBA. Players are reportedly thrilled with the addition of Fehr.
Despite his reputation, Fehr insists he doesn’t want a lockout. But this hire does mean that NHL owners won’t be able to bully the players as they have in the past. There’s plenty of time to negotiate a settlement before the CBA expires, but the NHL will learn very quickly that it’s not going to get its way on everything with Fehr. If both sides are willing to compromise, a lockout is still very avoidable. If not, Fehr has proven that he’s willing to sit his players out.
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