NHL Lockout: 5 Former Players That Could Lead the NHLPA Going Forward

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2012

NHL Lockout: 5 Former Players That Could Lead the NHLPA Going Forward

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    Donald Fehr is in one of the great labor battles of his career.

    The executive director of the NHL Players' Association is certainly used to negotiating with management types who are not hesitant to push players to the limit when they negotiate.

    Fehr, 64, had a long career with the Major League Baseball Players' Association before he came to the NHL in 2010.

    Fehr worked with the legendary Marvin Miller during much of his tenure with the MLBPA before becoming that organization's executive director.

    Fehr ultimately built a strong relationship with Major League Baseball. While a brutal work stoppage wiped out the conclusion of the 1994 season and caused the sport to cancel the playoffs and World Series, labor relations in baseball afterwards improve dramatically. In fact, Major League Baseball has not had a work stoppage since.

    The current NHL lockout is into its third month and will almost certainly spill into a fourth. It could wipe out the entire season.

    Fehr will see the lockout through. He will eventually hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

    When that happens, Fehr may decide that enough is enough. He could decide to call it a career and retire, or possibly move on to an advisory role.

    Here's a look at five former players (four competed in the NHL) who could replace him.

Ken Dryden

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    Ken Dryden was a Hall of Fame goalie with the Montreal Canadiens.

    He backstopped perhaps the greatest team in the history of the National Hockey League to six Stanley Cup championships during the 1970s.

    After his career, Dryden became a best-selling author and a commentator. He also became an executive with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was a member of Canada's parliament from 2004 through 2011 as a member of the Liberal Party.

    He is a lawyer who could give the NHLPA thoughtful representation if he wanted to go in that direction and the players wanted to bring him aboard.

Brian Burke

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    Brian Burke is the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and is under pressure to get the Leafs back to the playoffs. Toronto has not participated in the postseason since the 2003-04 season.

    Burke has been an executive in the NHL for many years, working with the Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks before moving on to the Leafs.

    Burke was the captain of the Providence College hockey team and played a full year of minor league hockey with the Maine Mariners before going to Harvard Law School.

    Burke has been on the management side of the equation for years, but before that he was a player agent. A move to the NHLPA may not seem obvious, but Burke has the diverse background to handle such a change if he was so inclined.

Brendan Shanahan

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    Brendan Shanahan was one of the league's most respected players during a long career that saw him compete from 1987 through 2009.

    Shortly after his retirement, he joined the NHL and became the league's vice president of hockey and business operations.

    The primary aspect of his job is handing out discipline to players who violate on-ice safety rules. This includes fining and suspending them.

    Shanahan is on the management side right now, but if he wanted to switch to the union side, he would almost certainly be respected by his constituency.

    However, for Shanahan to have a position of leadership, he would need to continue his education. He certainly has the leadership and personal qualities needed to handle the job.

Tom Laidlaw

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    Tom Laidlaw was an NHL defenseman from 1979 through 1991, primarily with the New York Rangers.

    Laidlaw is currently an NHL player agent in New York.

    He is certainly aware of all the issues that impact players and he could represent their interests in negotiations with the league.

    Laidlaw was known as a tough-minded defenseman who would not let forwards pass easily. He is the same kind of negotiator as a player agent.

Mike Liut

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    Mike Liut played goalie in the NHL from 1979 through 1992. Prior to the start of his NHL career, he played two seasons in the World Hockey Association.

    Liut graduated from Bowling Green University in 1977 and then earned his law degree from the Detroit College of Law.

    Liut is a player agent and he currently heads the ice hockey division of Octagon Athlete Representation.

    He is the kind of representative who could handle the responsibility of battling the league in CBA negotiations.