The National Hockey League Player’s Association has found it’s new executive director, according to the Sports Business Journal, and it’s Donald Fehr, the former head of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association. Fehr has been serving in an advisory capacity with the NHLPA since stepping down as head of the MLBPA.
If Fehr is confirmed in that position by the board of player representatives, it will mark a new era for the NHLPA: an era more reminiscent of the time when Bob Goodenow ran the association.
Fehr’s track record at the MLBPA is an impressive one. Major League Baseball is the only one of North America’s four major sports without a salary cap, and Fehr deserves much of the credit (blame?) for that. He’s been successful in court, successful at maintaining union solidarity, and successful at exploiting the often differing interests of MLB owners. It’s also worth noting that it was under his leadership that the 1994-95 player’s strike occurred – the first time an entire postseason was lost due to a strike.
For the NHLPA, it’s hard not to view this hiring as a positive. The union has been kicked around the last few years; since Goodenow was ousted a combination of league action and internal disarray has reduced the NHLPA’s credibility to an all-time low, and five leaders in five years have destroyed the PA’s ability to have any kind of long-term plan. Bringing in a man with Fehr’s credibility is a major coup for the NHLPA.
For everyone else, this is a less positive hiring. While a strong NHLPA is good for the game in a lot of ways, I strongly suspect we’re about to see a more militant union, under a capable leader, and that we may well be headed to another labour stoppage when the current CBA expires at the end of 2011-12.