Monday, September 13, 2010

Will Donald Fehr take over the NHLPA?

It's been rumored for a few weeks that former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr, 62, is set to become the next executive director of the NHLPA. The latest is that he will indeed become director. Over on his blog, baseball attorney Jay Reisinger wonders why is it taking so long:
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The NHLPA has been a rudderless ship since Bob Goodenow resigned in 2005, and in my opinion, the only person that can right the NHLPA is Don Fehr.

Fehr was the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association for 27 years before he stepped down in 2009. Fehr was instrumental in making the MLBPA the most powerful union in sports. He guided the players through the collusion grievances of the late 1980’s (which resulted in an award of $280M to players) and the 1994-1995 strike. He also guided the players through CBA negotiations in 2002 and 2006, the first negotiations since 1970 that were achieved without a work stoppage.

More importantly, however, he built a union that was in touch with its members. He brought cohesion to the membership, and this cohesion enabled the MLBPA’s to successfully navigate their labor negotiations with MLB. Without the support of its members (support which Fehr and his protégées fostered), the MLBPA would not have fared as well as it did.

Fehr left the MLBPA in more than capable hands. This exemplifies another one of his skills; the ability to find, train and keep talented staff members that share his vision . . . the NHLPA has never had this kind of continuity. Its membership has never been as cohesive as the MLBPA’s, and its staff has never been as stable as the MLBPA’s. The current CBA, which is almost unconscionable from the players’ perspective, is a product of the NHLPA’s sustained instability, which has been exacerbated by the revolving door at the NHLPA’s offices.

It should be clear to the membership of the NHLPA that Fehr is not in this for the money. Fehr never took a salary of more than $1M during his tenure at the MLBPA, while other union leaders such as Billy Hunter (NBAPA) and Gene Upshaw (NFLPA), and even Ted Saskin, were making in excess of $2M. Fehr certainly earned a salary equal to or in excess of his peers, but he never took it. It should also be clear to the membership of the NHLPA that Fehr’s success was earned, not serendipitous, which means it can be recreated.

Personally, I do not think that Fehr’s request for $3M is representative of any financial desire or vanity. He has made his money. Rather, I think he believes that it is the only mechanism to ensure continuity at the NHLPA. With a higher salary (which is contractually guaranteed), the less likely he will be subject to the midnight coups that have felled some of his predecessors. . . .
To read the rest of this insightful piece, click here.