June 27, 2012
Team Fehr lined up
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
After 18 months of getting to know his new team, Donald Fehr has introduced his lengthy starting lineup for collective bargaining talks.
With unity and transparency in mind after both sides suffered in the 2004-05 lockout, the executive director of the NHL Players Association announced 31 union members on the bargaining committee, representing close to 700 rank and file. From Adams to Zetterberg, that stood with Fehr on Wednesday at the close of three days of internal meetings in Chicago, but only 10 are likely to attend any one session with the league, such as Friday’s first day of talks.
“They’re on top of their game,” Fehr said of how familiar the diverse group is with the nuts and bolts of the CBA. “They get it and they get it the first time. Players understand what happened (in 2004), they understand the backdrop. We’re fully prepared.”
In a further effort to assure the membership they all have a role, Fehr said the committee could be enlarged further and that any other player who wanted a say was invited to fly wherever the talks might be held this summer and the union would pay his airfare and hotel. But at this early stage, the players aren’t likely to give Fehr any flak. Most are still in awe of the man who had such clout as head of the MLB union for 33 years.
“Don is a very experienced and smart individual,” said Maple Leafs player rep David Steckel, who hopes to be added to the committee and be involved in some 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 want to make the talks as painless as possible.
“Our sport is making record revenues, so I hope everyone can agree on (fair distribution).”
The 31 players now on the bargaining committee are Craig Adams, Adrian Aucoin, Alex Auld, David Backes, Marty Biron, Brad Boyes, Chris Campoli, B.J. Crombeen, Mathieu Darche, Rick DiPietro, Shane Doan, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Goligoski, Ron Hainsey, Scott Hartnell, Jamie Langenbrunner, Manny Malhotra, Steve Montador, Dominic Moore, Brendan Morrison, Douglas Murray, George Parros, Chris Phillips, Cory Schneider, John Tavares, Shea Weber, Kevin Westgarth, Daniel Winnik, James Wisniewski and Henrik Zetterberg.
Fehr noted the NHLPA is quite diverse, with scorers, grinders, goalies, stars and sluggos, all of varying ages, but all under one tent.
“It would be silly to suggest every person sees every issue the same way,” he added.
But there will be little or no wavering from the players on some key issues, With the league talking about $3.3 billion in revenues last season, the players want to at least maintain their 57% share. The owners, with bleeding franchises in pockets throughout the U.S., want that down around 50%.
Friday’s initial meeting in New York won’t likely go far beyond the exploratory stage and establish some ground rules.
“One thing you seek (at the start) is common understanding of the facts and you spend some time doing that,” said Fehr. “You can’t block (the revenue issue) out. Since 2004, if revenues were flat, we’re likely having different discussions today.”
Fehr is also dangling the possibility that players would stay on the job after Sept. 15 if talks were ongoing, working under the terms of the old CBA and a new $70.2-million salary cap in effect for this summer. But he kept most specifics out of Wednesday’s briefing until he sits down with Bettman.
“As I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, I don’t discuss conversations I’ve had with players other than with other players.”
Fehr called Bettman, survivor of two NHL lockouts, “a pro” and that he looked forward to the negotiating process.
“Over time, I hope there would be great trust,” Fehr said.
Hockey fans, weary of millionares nattering on against millionaires would agree.