NHL Open For Business: Ference Credits Fehr With "Real Leadership" Following Kelly Ouster
Bruins D Andrew Ference was one of a group of people that "ousted" former NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly, and he believes that the move was “clearly a good one,” according to Steve Conroy of the BOSTON HERALD. Ference: “I think there are a couple of writers here who are in love with our last director and think I’m the devil, but despite what they think, it’s so far from the truth. We’re in such a better position of strength with [NHLPA Exec Dir Donald] Fehr and his brother [NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr], the lawyers that he has and the economists they have.” Ference added, “To finally have some stability and finally have some real leadership and have a guy come in and do a really time-crunched job of getting to know everybody and unifying everybody in a tough situation was awesome.” Meanwhile, Kelly responded by saying, “We sued the league (over a pension fund for NHL widows) and we infuriated people in the league office. Andrew Ference doesn’t know me at all and he doesn’t know my world view. And to suggest that we would have been soft or rolled over or capitulated in any way has no basis in fact. It’s laughable, really” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/8).
ASSESSING THE DEAL AND FEHR: Blackhawks RW Jamal Mayers: “There were some things that both sides gave on, but I think overall it's a good deal for the players. There's no denying we made a lot of concessions and gave up $2 billion, and it could be $3 billion over the course of the agreement. The one thing we did get out of this was the pension and having it be a defined benefit plan. The young guys might not appreciate that now, but in time, looking back, it's something that will definitely be in our favor." Mayers said of Donald Fehr, "He kept his cool the entire time and was able to get players the best deal possible and save the season. He’s been doing this for 30 years so there's no question we just leaned on him and were thankful he was there” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/8). Panthers RW George Parros said, “The pension’s an incredible feat on our part. Credit Don Fehr with that. It was his idea. He brought it up to us from the early get-go and it’s really the one thing we can hang our hat on as players. It’s the one thing we’ve gained out of all of this.” Parros added, “There’s no doubt in my mind Don Fehr saved this union, saved the game. He was a burr in their side, I think, a bit, but what he did was absolutely incredible (given) the shambles our union was in, not too early before these negotiations took place” (L.A. TIMES, 1/8). Canucks C Manny Malhotra said, “I can definitely say I am proud to be a part of this union with the solidarity we showed and the level of education that the guys had.” Malhotra added, “I think that’s what Don Fehr has done for our union, taking us from a place of dysfunction to where we are now. It’s been a privilege to watch it and be a part of it.” Canucks C Henrik Sedin said, “I think the guys I was most impressed with were maybe the fourth-liners or the sixth, seventh and eighth defencemen who don’t make a lot of money. They were still sticking by the union and that’s impressive. I think it’s a fair deal. I think both sides are happy to get things going and get back playing” (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/8).
TOOK LONG ENOUGH: Red Wings D Ian White said, “All along we thought there was a time line on when they wanted to sweat us out until, and it looks like that's what happened. It doesn't seem like a good way to bargain, thinking we got to go to this date and seeing how much we can get from the players, and at the end they'll settle and give us a deal. It's unfortunate because I think we could have had a deal in the summer” (MLIVE.com, 1/7). The CP’s Alan Robinson noted Penguins C Sidney Crosby “wonders why the extra month was needed” to end the lockout. Crosby said, “It’s pretty close to what was there in New York. There’s no great explanation for it.” Penguins RW Craig Adams said, “No player should be under the illusion we got a great deal. But we did very well under the circumstances. There are a lot of things in this deal that aren’t as good for the players as they were. I think the owners got a really good deal, and hopefully we got enough things in there and held onto enough things that it will be a good deal for us in the long run” (CP, 1/7).
BETTMAN UNDER FIRE: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont reports “speculation around [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman being fired has cropped up in multiple reports around the league since the pact was announced Sunday morning.” A source said Bettman will “never be fired." The source: "But in a year or two, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shift to another job in the front office -- some advisory role, or Commissioner Emeritus, or whatever.’’ Another source was “unwilling to agree that a third lockout would lead to Bettman being moved off the job.” But the source said that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly “would be the likely choice and prohibitive favorite as the next commissioner” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8). In DC, John Feinstein writes Bettman and the owners have “infuriated NBC ... by costing the network the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, not to mention more than three months of inventory desperately needed by the NBC Sports Network.” If there is “one thing no commissioner wants to do, it is upset his television partners.” Bettman “clearly has come out of this battle weakened.” He “did not deliver on his promise to take down Fehr” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/8). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes of Bettman, “Now is the time for him to step aside.” Engel: “What should be represented right now is the survival of the game itself, and not just the best interest of the NHL owners. … If this league wants to truly grow, it needs to hire a salesman, someone schooled in media and public relations” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/8).
BAD BLOOD: ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun wrote it will “take years to build up trust between both sides,” as the “mistrust between players and owners, between the union and league, is perhaps at an all-time low.” Sabres G Ryan Miller in an e-mail wrote, "I would like to believe that if larger groups of players, owners and executives were able to interact more often and contribute ideas to the game and the business, then there would be at least a little bit of trust built over time.” Miller added, "The problem now is that I am not sure any player will ever forgive the league executives, let alone start to trust them. The league needs to reach out to the players after they take care of the fans and start to build some trust again.” LeBrun wrote, “Time to heal, time to rebuild, time to grow. Time to give back to the fans, those who matter the most” (ESPN.com, 1/7). The Red Wings' White said of possible lingering feeling between owners and players, “I think, fortunately, it wasn’t most of the owners who were doing this (lockout). I'm sure most of them wanted to play right from the get-go without having to go through all the shenanigans. I'm sure there's going to be a couple owners that guys aren't going to be too happy with going forward, but for the most part most of the owners are decent guys” (MLIVE.com, 1/7).