Members of the NHL Players’ Association spent the past two days discussing a structural change that will almost certainly see Donald Fehr remain as a senior consultant to work with the new executive director of the union.
As first reported by THN.com, Fehr has indeed decided he wants to retain an active role with the NHLPA and will almost certainly be front and center during the next round of negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement. He will not be the executive director, but he will guide the new person for the next several years.
Fehr said he has not declared his candidacy, but one player who was involved in the meetings said otherwise.
“Don doesn’t have a title to him right now, but he is a candidate in the search,” said Calgary Flames player representative Robyn Regehr. “I know that originally talking to Don, he wasn’t even interested in the position, but I think for whatever reason, he’s changed his stance now.”
When told that Regehr said he is officially a candidate, Fehr responded by saying, “I’m officially a candidate? No. I’m officially not anything but an unpaid advisor to the search committee. And that’s about all I can say about that.”
Citing player confidentiality, Fehr largely dodged questions concerning specifics, but many players have made it clear they want Fehr to continue with the NHLPA. The league’s front office is expecting that to be the case and while Fehr went to great lengths to distance himself from talk of taking over the union, he did not say he is not interested, either.
“Personally, I’d like to think Don is at least thinking about it,” said Steve Montador of the Buffalo Sabres. “I’m not inside his head and can’t say that.”
The leading candidates for the executive director’s job are sports labor expert Doug Allen and former assistant executive director of the NFL Players’ Association David Feher. Some have speculated the new executive director could be a former player such as Chris Chelios, Trevor Linden or Mathieu Schneider, who is a member of the search committee along with Brian Rolston and Jamie Langenbrunner of the New Jersey Devils, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Brian Rafalski of the Detroit Red Wings.
Regehr said the players hope to have their front office staff in place in time for training camp, which leaves about two months for them to find their man or men.
“We’re not just dealing with different candidates right now,” Regehr said. “We’re also dealing with different structures and I think that’s why things have taken a little longer than we hoped. In dealing with those different scenarios, they’ve also had to talk to the candidates about whether they’re comfortable with those different scenarios.”
With the expiration of the current CBA 26 months away, there was also talk among the players of preparing for the possibility of another lockout, something Regehr said has been weighing on his mind. If both the league and players don't terminate the agreement 120 days in advance of its expiration, the CBA would extend for another year, when the two sides would be faced with the same scenario again.
“If you look back at some of the things I’ve had occasion to say over the past 26 years and things (former MLBPA executive director) Marvin Miller has had occasion to say for the 18 years before that, there’s a simple rule about bargaining,” Fehr said. “You hope for the best, you do what you can, you treat the possibility of a work stoppage as a last resort and you prepare for the worst. It’s pretty basic stuff.”
The executive committee, which is comprised of the 30 player representatives, also ratified changes to the constitution that are believed to give the executive director more power and make it easier to do his job. Fehr was also an advisor to the constitutional committee. The constitution now needs to be ratified by the general membership by a two-thirds vote.