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Fehr unveils NHLPA negotiation lineup

NHLPA head Donald Fehr spoke well of commissioner Gary Bettman and the chances of avoiding...

NHLPA head Donald Fehr spoke well of commissioner Gary Bettman and the chances of avoiding disruption after the current CBA expires Sept. 15. (Sue Ogrocki/Reuters/Files)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:03 PM ET

TORONTO - After 18 months of getting to know his team, Donald Fehr has introduced the starting lineup for collective bargaining talks.

Keeping a low profile until now, the executive director of the National Hockey League's Players Association held a half hour media briefing in Chicago on Wednesday, ahead of Friday's first round of CBA discussions in New York.

The names of 31 players on the bargaining committee were unveiled, from Adrian Aucoin to Henrik Zetterberg, who will have varying roles as meetings unfold this summer.

And though the fur will fly at some point, Fehr spoke well of commissioner Gary Bettman and the chances of avoiding disruption after the current agreement expires Sept. 15.

"One thing you seek (at the start) is common understanding of the facts," said Fehr, who will be looking to define just what are the "record revenues" the league likes to boast about on its business ledger. "You can't block (the revenue issue) out. Since 2004, if revenues were flat, we're likely having different discussions today."

But Fehr wouldn't get specific on how much, if any, of the 57% of revenues the players now claim would be on the table. And he refused to promise that the players would stay on the job after Sept. 15 if talks were ongoing, saying his comment earlier this week on not leaving was simply an observation of labour law.

Fehr, who gained his hardball reputation as MLB's union champion, kept specifics out of Wednesday's briefing and refrained from sabre rattling on another lockout. He has been careful to involve more players in this bargaining process after troubles seven years ago. About 20 of the 31 union members stood behind him at Wednesday's meeting.

Fehr noted the NHLPA is quite diverse, with scorers, grinders, goalies, stars and sluggoes, all of varying ages, but all under one tent.

"It would be silly to suggest every person sees every issue the same way," Fehr said.

Maple Leaf player rep David Steckel said the three days of meetings were very beneficial to him.

"Don is a very experienced and smart individual," said Steckel, who hopes to be among those committee members involved in direct talks. "The players are united in this. I can't sit here and predict there won't be (a labour disruption), but I can say both sides want an agreement and we want to make the talks as painless as possible. Our sport is making record revenues, so I hope everyone can agree on (fair distribution)."


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