There were several internet reports out on Wednesday night indicating that former Major League Baseball Union chief Donald Fehr is poised to officially come out of retirement and take over the NHLPA.
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reported that the union's executive search committee had recommended Fehr for the job of Executive Director and the matter was now up for vote before the union's 30 player reps. Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski is now counting the days before the next lockout.
Fehr is known as a very tough customer who helped make the baseball union a force to be reckoned with and he has the experience which would certainly be appealing to the rank and file of the hockey union. The NHLPA could use some reliable direction as they have been without an official leader now since the controversial firing of Paul Kelly about a year ago.
One player rep who most likely will give Fehr his vote is Carolina Hurricanes rep Erik Cole. I spoke with the winger after his informal practice on Wednesday morning and asked him about Fehr as well as other union business. When I questioned him, he would not confirm Fehr as a legitimate candidate for Executive Director, but he had nothing but praise for the acting adviser.
"I can just say that Don has been a very positive influence on our outlook regarding how to address our union moving on and how to further establish and strengthen the union. Everything from the office out. Personally, I feel that his input has been invaluable. He is certainly a very experienced and intelligent man when it comes to collective bargaining. We are very fortunate to have him helping us out and pointing us in the right direction."
While not naming names, Cole did say that the executive search committee was "finishing up the interview process."
We have candidates in mind who not only fit the bill with credentials, but also have a unique way to relate to the players, which is one of the more important things we are searching for. We need to be a more unified bunch, so we are continuing on in that direction.
Cole said that other current union business included: "the competition committee looking at rule changes as well as other related issues, and working with free agents out there and their agents and trying to find jobs for these guys."
While some in the media seem to think that this potential hiring could lead to a borderline doomsday scenario regarding a future lockout, the NHLPA has appeared to be dysfunctional as of late, at least to outsiders looking in, and they definitely need a strong, knowledgeable leader. Having someone in charge with 23 years of experience would seem to be a better option than having someone in charge with little experience who might make decisions based upon emotion, rather than comprehension and understanding.
For better or worse, it looks like Don Fehr will be the man. It also looks like Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors will not be running rough shod over the union in upcoming negotiations.