Donald Fehr may be one of the most controversial individuals in North America. He is at the core of the 2012 NHL lockout. As the Executive Director of the NHLPA, Fehr is one of a few key people responsible for there being no NHL season to date. While there was a glimmer of hope a few weeks ago when the owners and NHLPA swapped proposals, Fehr squashed these dreams with his counter-proposals.
The question remains, who is Donald Fehr? What is his motivation during this 2012 lockout?
Fehr is an individual who has some unbelievable statistics associated with his name. He is the only Executive Director to be involved in two work stoppages in two major North American sports. Before his retirement in 2009 as Executive Director of the MLBPA, Fehr headed five consecutive work stoppages in baseball. Six of the eight contract negotiations he has been associated with have resulted in work stoppages.
Surely Fehr has the best interest of the NHL players in mind. However, the players should realize Fehr does not have the best interest of their league in mind. Fehr may get the players what they want, but if they continue to take a stubborn stance on issues and let Fehr manipulate their thoughts, the game of hockey may be ruined years down the road.
The NHLPA had a spectacular deal before their CBA ended back in September. The time for a change has come. If there is going to be a 2012-2013 NHL season, the players are not going to win this negotiating battle, nor should they.
Think of this way….If two sides have equal importance in how a business operates why would one side (the owners) want to let the other side (NHLPA) take 57% of the profit. Both sides are equally needed for the NHL product, as a whole, to be successful. This is why the hockey related revenue should be split 50/50 with no hidden fees. In Proposal III, Fehr claimed there would be a 50/50 split, but this was untrue. There were those hidden fees.
As he has proven through MLB, Fehr is willing to take whatever measures possible for the players’ union despite what his decisions may do to the state of the NHL. Fehr has been toying with the owners and the emotions of NHL fans by making verbal proposals and refusing to schedule meaningful meetings to resolve this dispute. Fehr is not taking these issues seriously until he gets exactly what he wants.
In 1994-95, Fehr was at the head of nearly an eight month strike by the MLBPA which resulted in the cancelling of the World Series for the first time in ninety years. This agreement was finally resolved by a third party.
Fehr was also at the core of the “Steroids Era” in MLB. He knew exactly what was going on behind closed doors. Fehr would not admit to their existence or even use the word “steroids,” as stated in a Tom Verducci article on SI.com. This 2009 article goes on to say that Fehr knew about steroids in MLB but failed to address the issue until he had no choice.
“Of course he knew what was going on. As I reported with Joe Torre in “The Yankee Years,” Rick Helling, a union executive board member, told Fehr as far back as 1998, and in each subsequent year, he had a huge steroid problem on his hands. By 2000, baseball sources were estimating in print that anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the players, and most of the best players, were using steroids.”
Donald Fehr does not care what happens to the state of the league in the future as long as he gets every last penny for the players. Look at MLB, is this how you want the NHL to appear in a few years? Despite his knowledge, Fehr failed to bring up steroids in baseball because these freakish home run hitters were creating outrageously rich contracts for one another based on inflated (steroid-induced) statistics.
“The NHLPA’s executive director, in a meeting with the Toronto Star’s editorial board, says the longer the work stoppage lasts, the more apt the union is to push for the revocation of the salary cap. “If this goes on for an extended period of time, I don’t know what (the players) are going to do. But I think it’s safe to say, they would be exploring all options,” said Fehr.”
With this being said, the NHLPA and Fehr do not look to be in any hurry to come to a resolution. If the NHLPA, as claimed by Fehr, wants this drama to end quickly, then why hasn’t Fehr “crunched the numbers” or written up formal proposals?
Donald Fehr better not ruin the NHL or turn the league into anything like MLB. He was the ring leader of the MLBPA which will be forever linked to the “Steroids Era” in baseball. An era which paints MLB with a black eye from which the league will never recover. From steady procrastination, Fehr looks like he is playing everyone for a fool until the time is right to make a deal which would yank the salary cap.
If Fehr attempts to remove the salary cap from hockey, the NHL is never going to see small market teams competing in a league that is full of parity. The large market teams will go on ridiculous spending sprees and ruin the rest of the league. The small market teams would be doomed and we would be watching MLB on ice.
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.