NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has plenty of experience in collective bargaining negotiations, but should the players really trust him?
Fehr has been a player agent, he was the the executive director of the MLB players' union for over a decade and he has been the executive director of the NHLPA since 2010. He certainly knows what he's doing.
As another NHL lockout comes closer to becoming a reality, there is no better man to lead the NHLPA than Fehr.
Since the strike that ended the 1994 MLB season, Fehr worked with Major League Baseball until he left the MLBPA in 2009. Over the last 18 years, no sport has enjoyed more labor peace than baseball, and a lot of that can be attributed to the job that Fehr did as head of the MLBPA. Baseball hasn't had a strike since 1995, while the NHL, NFL and NBA have all gone through a lockout(s) in that time.
Is Fehr someone the players can trust?
The NHL players had significant issues being on the same page back in 2005 when Bob Goodenow was leading them, but the owners cannot expect the NHLPA to have same internal problems this time around. Fehr is too strong of a leader to let that happen. He will unite his players.
Fehr's professionalism is outstanding, and he handles the media very well. If he were a politician, there wouldn't be any embarrassing gaffes to laugh at.
In an August 2011 article by Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, Aschburner listed the highest average player salaries among the four major North American sports leagues. The NHL had the third-highest average player salary among the MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL.
If the NHL players want to climb higher than third, they need Fehr as their union leader. CBC has reported that NHL player salaries have risen an amazing 69 percent since the last lockout. A rise this significant in player salaries isn't something the players will want to halt.
It's important to note that there is no salary cap in baseball, but that doesn't mean you can discount the impact that Fehr made on player salaries growing at an impressive rate during his time leading the MLBPA.
According to CBS Sports, baseball players have an average salary of $3,440,000 for the 2012 season. This is the second-highest average salary of the four major North American sports leagues, according to Aschburner's list.
Fehr's track record of helping his players get what they want, as well as maintaining long periods of labor peace, makes him a leader that the NHLPA can trust not only during the current labor struggle, but in the future when the next CBA expires as well.
He's a very smart man, and he understands what it takes to get his players what they deserve. Fehr won't give in to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and he won't be bullied by the owners. He's a strong union leader that the NHL players can trust to get them through these negotiations with the best deal possible.