Fehr Mongering

If and when Donald Fehr “officially” becomes attached to the NHLPA, it may go down as one of the worst kept secrets in the union’s history.  The stashing of secrets would be nothing new to Fehr, though.  While it would be unfair to call him responsible for baseball’s steroid era it’s certainly not a stretch to label him an enabler of it.  Donald Fehr has always done an astounding job of representing his union’s best interests, even if those interests were not favorable among media and fans alike.  He is quite possibly the greatest union head our continent has ever known.

That’s what worries me with the rumblings of his impending involvement with the NHLPA.  I’ll stop short of saying that the NHL has a performance enhancing drug problem, but that’s not to say one doesn’t exist.  Baseball players and owners got rich for over a decade while fans filled stadiums to cheer tainted heroes before the MLBPA and the league finally conceded that there was in fact a “problem”.  To call Fehr and baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig complicit in that problem is marginally unfair, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.  They had to know, right?

Selig, for better or worse will see his legacy tainted by the throes of steroid, human growth hormone, and amphetamine use.  Fehr, for his part, will always be looked to as the man that helped baseball go 16 years without a labour stoppage.  You could say that regardless of the cost to the game’s integrity, Donald Fehr did his job and he did it well.  The NHL is on the verge of entering a critical era in the league’s existence, and to all intents and purposes it’s sounding more and more like the players’ union is banking on Fehr to be the man to carry them through that era.

Fehr has been hanging around hockey arenas and functions a lot as of late.  The Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts is of the belief that it’s just a matter of time before some kind of formal agreement is reached between the NHLPA and Donald Fehr:

“No one knows that for sure right now, and it should become clearer on Wednesday after the NHL Players’ Association hears the recommendation of its search committee for a new leader. But all the evidence is pointing toward the involvement, at the very least, of the recently retired executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in the negotiations for a new collective agreement in a couple of years.”

The NHLPA covets Fehr because of the hard line stance he took with baseball’s owners; he represented the player’s financial interests as well as he did their “privacy” interests.  There’s no doubt, he helped make baseball profitable again (in most markets) while battling for the player’s rights until the bitter end.  He is of a dual legacy in baseball.  Did he defend the players to a fault?  Perhaps, although it was his duty to do so.

When hockey’s collective bargaining agreement expires in September 2012 there will be a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the game that even the most optimistic of forecasters will have trouble shedding light on.  It’s not just the financial viability of the league and player salaries that will come in to question moving forward, either.  The NHL has had its own brush with PED fame just last season when the Washington Capitals became a target of a disgraced doctor and investigators.  For those familiar with baseball’s battle with a drug problem, the NHL’s claims of being void of a PED infestation were all too familiar.

Having Fehr’s name bounced around in the same sentences as acronyms like NHLPA and CBA really does beg the question of; is this really the right man to help lead OUR game into the next decade?  If, and I reiterate “if”, hockey players are reaping the benefits of PEDs then you can bet that Donald Fehr would be relied upon for guidance on how to deal with the issue with as little sacrifice as possible.  He did help get MLB to a point where its two highest paid players (Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez) are also two of its greatest cheats.

I’m not so sure Donald Fehr is a person I want anywhere near the game I love.

Comments (10)

  1. The thing with Fehr is that he’s always going to be a bit hamstrung by the fact that plenty of players are going to get drug tested every year no matter what he says thanks – and I can’t believe I just used that word to describe this organization of morons – to the IIHF and the World Championships. No matter what he does, he can’t fight against that. And it’s more pronounced during an Olympic year – at least, what, 100 players were subject to both whatever programme the NHL has plus IOC testing this year? If the NHLPA’s position is that the Olympics are good, Fehr can’t make an argument against drug testing without sounding like a moron, bottom line.

    Of course, in spite of the lack of positive tests (outside of everyone’s favourite Hair Club for Men endorser Jose Theodore and Bryan “c’mon, isn’t there an exemption if you’re half blind?” Berard), we all know that the system is still full of holes. There’s no off-season testing, which is a gigantic hole given the time it takes (eight weeks) for most steroids to clear from a user’s system. Every player in the league should be tested over the summer, but I suspect Fehr’s argument will be that since the players aren’t being paid over the summer months, they shouldn’t be subjected to testing.

    On the other hand, I do believe that players are much cleaner than baseball was (or the NFL is), so resistance on Fehr’s part may just be a bargaining ploy. But I don’t really understand why he’d want this job, as the toothpaste is very much out of the tube when it comes to a salary cap. There’s not many fights for the players left that aren’t technical, back-room issues such as allocation and division of revenue streams. This negotiation is more likely to resemble the Gil Stein / Goodenow one than any of the Bettman / Goodenow showdowns, simply because of the nature of the issues at play.

  2. Fehr should be signed up now. He was great for ball players.

  3. I think Stephen is right. I know that the posturing is already beginning a bit, but I think the next CBA negotiating won’t be that contentious, not with the salary cap already in place. I think it’ll end up being the owners asking for a decrease in the percentage of revenues players get and possibly another salary rollback, and the players asking for a reduction in escrow and maybe an increase in revenue sharing. Everything else is pretty much window dressing, the league will probably feint that they’re going to go after guaranteed contracts and the players will probably bluster that they want a soft cap, but in the end I doubt either of those things will happen.

  4. You would think, given the example of baseball, the NHLPA would want to get out ahead of PED testing. It will eventually happen. Why not try to clean up your mess in house and then roll out a plan that looks proactive before it gets regulated in.

  5. I’ve never understood why the NHL doesn’t put in the strictest drug testing in the sports world, then advertise the hell out of that fact. If the players are as clean as the NHL thinks they are, it shouldn’t be that big a problem, and they might pick up a few disgruntled MLB or NFL fans.

  6. Having Fehr’s name bounced around in the same sentences as acronyms like NHLPA and CBA really does beg the question of; is this really the right man to help lead OUR game into the next decade?

    No, it doesn’t. That’s not what “beg the question” means, not even close.

    You’re looking for “raise the question”.


  7. Thanks for the English lesson. You got anything else or are you just upset with my use of that phrase. Pound sand. The Oilers colours are orange and blue, not copper.

  8. Coppernblue, really? you need to get outside more bud. you spend your time hanging around blogs looking for common mistakes? you nerds need to put your calculators away, do some watching and thinking.

  9. I thought the logical fallacy that really stuck out here was the sentence Donald Fehr “is quite possibly the greatest union head our continent has ever known.”

  10. Haha, if it’s logical fallacies you’re looking for then keep coming back. All kinds of derailment going on here, I like to fancy myself a surreal humourist. Dadaism > logic.

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