SUN Hockey Pool

NHLPA talks to Fehr

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

The National Hockey League Players' Association this week is conducting the due diligence that might have prevented the problems of the past two years.

In searching for a new executive director, the Players' Association is taking counsel from some of the people who have been through the labour wars, such as baseball union chief Donald Fehr. The goal is making sure the aims of the new leader match theirs and ensuring the new person knows who he is working for.

It is possible that conducting this same process would have re-affirmed Ted Saskin as Bob Goodenow's replacement in the days following the lockout in 2005. But the handoff was fumbled in a rush job that eventually caused the rank and file to dump Saskin and start an independent investigation of the whole matter.

Fehr, along with Canadian labour lawyer Paul J.J. Cavalluzzo and former NBA union boss Charles Grantham addressed about 20 of the 30 team reps yesterday at a Toronto hotel, having already been approached by a steering committee of Eric Lindros, Shawn Horcoff and Bryan Muir. It is hoped the three VIPs will give the players advice on re-structuring the union.

"I hope I was helpful," Fehr said.

"Athletes can be different, but also can have a lot in common, in that they have a desire to prevail."

It is interesting that Fehr's union has fought off imposition of a salary cap, which its hockey brethren were forced to accept after a lost 2004-05 season. Yet some will argue the players haven't suffered as the collective bargaining agreement unfolded and the cap has risen.

"The bottom line in all this is that the membership has to have a high degree of trust and involvement in the organization," Fehr said.

Fehr, who had been at the helm of the MLB players since 1985, was asked if this was a thankless job for the eventual candidate, given the latter won't be popular with teams and fans and, at times, even his own membership.

"Not if you know the players you are working for," Fehr said.

The NHLPA reps did not comment on any aspects of yesterday's presentations until the three-day meeting ends today. That's when they'll have tackled another big item -- a vote on configuring next season's cap. Sunday represents the start of the 2007-08 season, the third of a six-year collective bargaining agreement.

Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, yesterday addressed the NHLPA in Toronto.


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