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Volume 24 No. 155
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NHLPA's Donald Fehr Talks New CBA, Realignment And Franchise Relocation

NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr in a recent interview with THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau spoke about issues pertaining to a new CBA, including league realignment and franchise relocation. The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: Has the PA looked at making a counter-proposal for realignment, something that would address the concerns you have regarding travel and competitive advantage? Or do you sit back and wait for the league to drive the bus on that issue?
Fehr: When it comes to bargaining, we’ll take a hard look at playoffs and schedules and all that stuff and come up with our own ideas. Whether those will be related to the specific realignment proposals we got last December has yet to be determined.

Q: Players essentially have no say in the location (or possible relocation) of teams. Is this something that players are interested in talking about in the next CBA -- more of a voice in the business end and a true partnership with the owners?
Fehr: A so-called true partnership, if that connotes joint managerial control, joint ownership and all of those things, is a pretty tall order and so far as I know has not been adopted in any professional sport. If you take a step back from that and talk about whether you could develop vehicles in which you discuss a wide range of issues both in the abstract to the extent you can predict them, and then when they arise, in an effort to reach agreements, rather than having one side or the other make a decision, is that a good thing to do? I think it’s a good thing to try, yes.

Q: You see where the other sports have been trending toward the deals recently struck by the NFL and NBA, where revenue is split 50/50 by and large, and most other elements are ancillary to the deal being signed than that one main issue. Is that something you pay mind to specifically in terms of “the writing on the wall,” for lack of a better term, in the overall sports picture, do you think hockey is inherently different in the way the financial pie is split up?
Fehr: I’ve always believed, and my experience since I’ve gotten to the NHLPA confirms, that the four sports are different. The ownership is different, the nature of the industry is different, the economics of the sports are different, and I think all the (labor) agreements are self-contained. And you should approach bargaining in that fashion. So that’s the way we’re going to do it, and it remains to be seen what positions various people are going to come in with (, 1/25).

DOWN SOUTH: USA Hockey Assistant Exec Dir of Membership Development Pat Kelleher said that the organization's membership "has grown significantly in each of the Southern states where the NHL put teams." The AP's Teresa Walker notes the numbers are "growing all around the South -- including in Georgia, where Atlanta lost the Thrashers to Winnipeg last summer." Between '98-99 and '10-11, Colorado-based USA Hockey went from 911 members in Georgia to 2,287, an increase of 151 percent." North Carolina "boomed to 170.5 percent with a high of 5,812 players last year," and Florida, which "had about four ice rinks in the 1990s, now has 25 with players jumping from 5,606 to 11,571 (106.4 percent)." Texas had "11,661 players this past year or 96.6 percent more, while Tennessee had 2,573 this past season for [a] 118.8 percent jump" (AP, 1/27).