SBD/March 7, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Fehr Says Union's Relationship With NHL "Being Repaired" In First Post-Lockout Sit-Down

Fehr says the union's relationship with NHL will always be "adversarial"
NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr appeared on Sportsnet last night in what was billed as his first sit-down interview since the end of the NHL lockout, and he said the relationship between the union and the league is “in the process of being repaired.” Fehr said, “It doesn’t mean, obviously, we’ve agreed with them on everything. It doesn’t mean we won’t have disputes. It doesn’t mean we won’t have disagreements and sharp words from time to time. … But we have a contract, we have a relationship and we need to figure out a way to make it work.” He said the relationship between the two entities will always be “adversarial,” but noted it “doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of shared interests.” Fehr said, “Our obligation is to fight when we really need to, and if we really don’t, to find a way to solve the problem and move ahead.”

REALIGNMENT BEING LOOKED AT: Fehr addressed the current realignment plan that would create two divisions with eight teams and two with seven teams. He said, “We’ve had a series of conversations and we each have some ideas. We’re in the process of talking to the players about it. It’s a series of ongoing conversations.” He noted the union would be able to “schedule conference calls and be reasonably certain we’d get almost everybody we needed” in a normal season. But the compressed schedule “makes it a bit more difficult.” Fehr claimed there is “no hard deadline” for the NHLPA to vote on realignment, but said, “There is a recognition that it has to be resolved one way or another very fast because games have to be scheduled for next year … so I don’t think it will be very much longer.”

HOPEFUL ABOUT BEING IN SOCHI: The NHL has yet to commit to playing in the Sochi Games next February, and Fehr reiterated the players “would prefer to go.” The league and the union have met with the IIHF and the IOC, and he is “hopeful that things will be put together.” Fehr noted it “would be unfortunate” if the NHL did not participate, but said it is “within the range of all possible things in this world.” Fehr: “The parties on both sides are endeavoring to try to solve the issues which arise, many of which are logistical and others of which have to do with the interruption of an ongoing business.”

STICKING AROUND: Fehr said he has not talked to anyone about joining the NBPA and replacing Billy Hunter as Exec Dir. He said, “I have a job. I’m happy with the job. As I said, I’m excited about the industry, and I really, really like the players.” He added, “I’m hopeful in the NBA situation they’ll find a way to work through their issues and come to a conclusion that makes the players satisfied” (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/6).
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