Shortly after Donald Fehr left the MLBPA in June of last year, he took up an advisory role with the NHLPA. When I heard this news, I was somewhat concerned.
Being an avid fan of baseball, I consider Fehr a black mark on Major League Baseball. Don't get me wrong—he was a great union leader. The problem for me is that he did his job too well.
Fehr served as executive director for 26 years. He is largely responsible for raising the minimum salary for MLB players by $2.9 million over the course of his time with the union.
Not bad so far, right?
Keep in mind he also lead the Players Union through two labor stoppages. The first, in 1985, lasted only two days. The second, however, lasted 232 days and forced the cancellation of the entire postseason and World Series.
It gets better.
He also has a hand in preserving the status quo during the steroid era in baseball. Fehr and his union (I say his union because the players gave Fehr the power to do as he saw fit) turned a blind eye and threw up road blocks whenever presented with a drug testing policy.
All of these events came about because Donald Fehr did his job. To NHL fans, this is scary.
I am not one of the fans who thinks the NHL is completely devoid of performance enhancing drugs. The game is football on skates. It would have numerous benefits to hockey players.
Fehrs' willingness to mask, divert, and inadvertently encourage players to use means that the game I love will never clean up. Just because players have not been caught doesn't mean there isn't a problem.
The NHLPA is currently without an Executive Director after the fiasco that was Ted Saskin and Paul Kelly.
Now that Fehr has shown interest in taking the vacant job, my concern shot through the roof.
The NHL has done a good job in recent years gaining back much of its popularity lost during the lockout in the 2004-2005 season.
They have procured decent television deals in the U.S., implemented a salary cap to curb the outrageous spending during the 1990's, and created an event in the Winter Classic that draws big Neilson ratings.
All of that progress could be lost if Fehr gets elected. The players have said that they want more of a say in all major financial decisions the league makes, including television contracts and franchise relocation. This makes sense considering the salary cap is directly linked to league revenues.
I think Fehr will take it further. During his time with the MLBPA, he won every negotiation between the players and owners. The NHLPA should be no different.
The players will logjam any decisions the league wants to make, creating unrest. That unrest will lead to mistrust. The mistrust could create a fissure that will set the NHL back 10 years.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire following the 2011 season. If Fehr does indeed get elected to the post, I, for one, weep for the future of the game.
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