NHLPA boss Don Fehr: owners likely to lock out players again

Adam Proteau
Donald Fehr (Bruce Bennett)

There are still another seven seasons remaining in the NHL’s current collective bargaining agreement and the league’s business is booming to the point of serious and public expansion discussion. But as far as NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr is concerned, once the CBA ends after the 2021-22 campaign, the league’s labor history will repeat in the most unfortunate of ways.

That’s right. Prepare yourself for another lockout.

“If you put baseball to the side where there’s no cap, I don’t see anything yet which suggests any of the other three (North American) leagues are likely to break out of the phenomenon of a lockout every time, because a salary cap produces that phenomenon on the management side,” Fehr told THN Wednesday in an interview for a feature that appears in THN’s upcoming People of Power And Influence special edition. “(Owners) think they’ve got nothing to lose: “Let’s just go see what happens, and maybe we’ll get a little bit more.”

The 66-year-old Fehr – who has made an art out of eloquently keeping his cards close to the vest – discussed a wide array of topics for the feature, including NHLers potentially dealing with gambling and other temptations while playing in Las Vegas (“Lots of people live in Las Vegas and obey the law,”), the recent mumps outbreak and concussion protocols, and the prospect of independent doctors evaluating injured players (as opposed to the team doctors who currently have that job). Read more

Dallas Eakins fired; Craig MacTavish doubles down on himself

Ryan Kennedy
Craig MacTavish (right) with Scott Howson (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers have fired coach Dallas Eakins, thus ending a relationship that metaphorically resembled a broken man sitting at the end of a dank tavern for most of the year and a half Eakins was in charge. Dumping on the Oilers the past few years has become so easy and ubiquitous that it brings to mind all the photos and documentaries that have sprung up of burned-out houses and urban blight in Detroit: Even the admitted rubbernecking feels sad.

Now, GM Craig MacTavish is stepping behind the bench in an attempt to stabilize the situation. And he should realize before he sets a fire under Edmonton’s players that he himself is covered in kerosene already.

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Prospective Vegas team owner wants to name the team Black Knights, says Gretzky is involved

Jared Clinton
Las Vegas (George Rose/Getty Images)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has given the go ahead for the potential Las Vegas team owner William Foley to measure season ticket interest in Nevada’s most famous city, and he’s coming fit with a team name.

“I love the name Black Knights, because I was a West Point guy, I went to Army,” Foley told Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman in a sit down interview about his prospective ownership. Read more

Beer cost index shows which arenas give the best bang for your buck

Jared Clinton
Beer Cost Featured

There’s a strange phenomenon in Winnipeg wherein fans flock out of the MTS Centre at intermission to cross the street to any of a couple watering holes to get beer. It’s cheaper and, in notoriously cheap Winnipeg, that’s about all that matters, even in the dead of winter.

Now, thanks to one especially enterprising fan of both hockey and beer, you can visualize just how expensive it is to buy a beer (per ounce) at each arena throughout the NHL. Maybe those Jets fans are on to something: Read more

The Lethbridge Hurricanes are a mess. Can Kris Versteeg save them?

Ryan Kennedy
Times are tough for Lethbridge (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Western League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, when future NHLers Zach Boychuk, Dwight King, Luca Sbisa and Carter Ashton propelled the Alberta squad to the second round. Since that cohort, only two players have even been drafted by NHL teams – and the latest one now plays for Brandon after a trade request.

But Minnesota pick Reid Duke wasn’t the first to ask out of Lethbridge and the exodus away from the Hurricanes lately has been stunning. Unfortunately, hope for the franchise may still be almost a year away.

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Despite Gary Bettman’s soft-pedalling, an NHL team in Las Vegas is a virtual certainty

Adam Proteau
Gary Bettman (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

As he’s wont to do, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did his best to temper expectations in a state-of-the-league, board of governors press conference late Monday afternoon. But the topic he tried to soft-pedal – becoming the first of the Big Four pro sports leagues to set up shop in Las Vegas – cannot be soft-pedalled. And so Bettman’s announcement that the league has given billionaire insurance magnate William Foley permission to conduct a season’s-ticket drive in the city as a gauge of interest in hockey will lead to rampant speculation the NHL-to-Vegas is going to be confirmed sooner than later.

As it should. Some in the hockey industry have began operating as if an NHL franchise for the Nevada gambling mecca is a fait accompli.

“The league’s confidence has never been higher, and with their costs controlled better than ever now, it’s not a secret they’ve felt good about Vegas for months,” said one prominent NHL agent, who spoke on condition his name not be used. “Look, you’ve got a billionaire prepared to pay the league’s asking price (rumored by the New York Post to be in the area of $400 million) for the team and an arena that’s privately financed and is going in whether the NHL is going there or not. The risk for the league is next to nothing at the moment, but there are still enough skeptics about the demographics that (league management) felt this was a first step they had to take to address the doubt. But this is a situation where, if you’re asking the question publicly, you probably have a good idea of what the answer will be. Otherwise, you don’t ask the question.”

That is the key takeaway from Monday’s news. Why would the NHL float this trial balloon if it weren’t confident the people of Las Vegas would respond positively? It’s handing the average citizen an opportunity to put that city on the pro sports map, and even casual hockey fans or non-fans might be seduced by the allure of something new and sign up for season’s seats based on sheer exuberance alone. And rest assured Bettman doesn’t want to have to step in front of microphones months from now and say something along the lines of, “Hey folks, remember that Vegas thing I mentioned a while back? Didn’t work out. But the good news is the people told us it wasn’t us, it was them.” Read more

The greater outdoors: 10 locales we’d love to see host an outdoor game

Jared Clinton
Outdoor game

Earlier this week, commissioner Gary Bettman said that an outdoor game is on its way to Minnesota. The ‘State of Hockey’ is well deserving of the attraction, but there are other cities that should be on the NHL’s radar.

In recent years, we’ve seen games in Chicago, Vancouver, New York, Detroit, and even Los Angeles. There will be outdoor tilts in Washington and San Jose this season, and Winnipeg is coming up in 2016. But who has been left out and which cities would we like to see get a chance at hosting a Stadium Series or Winter Classic? Read more

Crosby is highest paid, but some surprises on Forbes list of top NHL earners

Jared Clinton
SidneyCrosby

It might not come as a huge surprise, but Sidney Crosby, almost inarguably the best player in the NHL, is the highest-earning star in the league at $16.5 million this year.

What is a bit surprising, however, is the disparity in endorsements between he and the second highest-paid player, Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber. The face of the NHL and front and center in campaigns for the likes of Reebok, Gatorade, Tim Hortons, and Sport Chek, Crosby makes an estimated $4.5 million in endorsements. Forbes also reports that Crosby has recently signed a deal with Rogers Communications, the Canadian telecom giant that owns the NHL broadcasting rights in Canada. Read more