The National Hockey League Players' Association announced today that it will not exercise its option to reopen the collective bargaining agreement with the NHL following the current season.
The CBA expires after the 2010-11 season, but the players' association had negotiated the right to modify the deal after four years.
Executive director Paul Kelly explained that although his group would like to see some things changed, the presence of an uncertain economic climate was a key reason for the decision, which was made in consultation with the 30 NHL player reps.
It's another wise move by a man who has done nothing but win people over since taking over the PA in October 2007.
Instead of narrowly focusing on his own ambitions, as we are accustomed to seeing from Gary Bettman and Kelly's predecessors, Bob Goodenow and Ted Saskin (to the extreme, in his case), the NHLPA boss is looking out for the long-term health of the game.
He understands that any kind of labour tension, coupled with the league's inevitable loss of revenue caused by fans and corporations tightening their belts, could be disastrous.
Kelly is not hell-bent on sticking it to his rival, as other chief labour figures have been. He realizes that this CBA is a partnership between the league and its players—a wary one, but a partnership nonetheless. The more the league is able to grow its product, and thus haul in revenue, the more his players get out of the deal.
None of this is to say that we won't see another protracted dispute when the CBA runs out in September 2011. That is a very plausible scenario, particularly considering the economic purgatory the sport could suffer over the next two years. But Kelly knows how to pick his battles, and he knows that this is not one of them.
The NHLPA is finally in good hands. Now if they could only get rid of that Healy feller.