Flames react to Fehr factor

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:17 PM ET

The lockout which wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season can’t be far from the minds of hockey fans.

Which is why trepidation is understandable among fans with the news the NHLPA officially named Donald Fehr its executive director Saturday.

After all, Fehr spent 33 years working for the Major League Baseball Players Association, including serving as executive director from 1983 to 2009, and was a key player in the 1994 strike that wiped out the World Series.

Calgary Flames player representative Robyn Regehr knows Fehr’s reputation as a hard negotiator, but doesn’t believe fans should fear another NHL stoppage when the current collective bargaining agreement runs out in the spring of 2012.

“If you look at bargaining, it takes two sides to bargain. You can’t blame that on one person or one side. If you look at the stoppage we had in hockey, who was it that stopped the game?” Regehr said after Saturday’s morning skate. “What you can look at is look at the agreement baseball has compared to other sports. It’s pretty favourable. So he’s done a good job.”

Good for the players, no doubt.

Only time will tell whether Fehr, 62, will be good for the game of hockey.

To his credit, Fehr has been involved with the NHLPA for more than a year, getting a feel for the league and its players.

His post finally puts the union on solid footing for the first time since the lockout ended in the summer of 2005, which is a big change for a group which went through a pair of leaders in Ted Saskin and Paul Kelly after Bob Goodenow’s tenure ended.

The draw for the players, who were nearly unanimous with their votes, is Fehr’s experience.

“Even though it’s not in hockey, it’s still in the collective bargaining side, the sports union side, all that stuff,” Regehr said. “He’ll have to learn about hockey and is the first to admit it, but has experience in those other areas that are important.

“Even though he has all this experience in the sports union business, he’s also a fresh face to the NHLPA. We’ve had some issues there in the past, to put it lightly, but he can come in there and, hopefully, get that office running the way he feels it should run for all parties involved.”

Prior to the vote, Fehr met with every team, and that effort has created a strong sense of respect among the players across the league.

“I liked him because he was honest,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “He was honest with us and said he’d love to do the job, but only if the players were on his side and not split, which is huge. I think it’s a big step forward for our union.

“We’re hoping he’ll be firm, but enough of this ‘us against them’ thing. It has to be a joint thing where we both know nobody wants work stoppages and lockouts. That saying, you have to give from one side and give from the other side.

“There are things he said don’t make sense to him and he’ll be firm with, like there are things that may not make sense for the other side.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

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