Tag: labor talk

Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman discusses realignment, labor talks


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a visit to Anaheim today and the media gathered to discuss a variety of league-wide and local issues. The most interesting tidbits – at least regarding what Bettman would call “new news” – revolve around dealings with the NHLPA.

PHT’s own Matt Reitz was on hand to gather Bettman’s comments, including this bit on realignment:

“The most significant thing I can say about that is the governors were overwhelming in support of the plan,” Bettman said. “It’s something that we, as a league, thought was the right thing to do for our fans, for the team, for the game. But we made the decision based on the position that the union was taking to try not to be confrontational right now. Ultimately, our goal will be to be to implement the will of the board [of governors].”

For the most part, Bettman didn’t provide a whole lot of information about the negotiation process regarding the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. He did share an interesting little nugget about when the discussions could begin, though:

“Well, Don Fehr has repeatedly said that he wouldn’t be ready until after the All-Star [weekend],” Bettman said. “My guess is that at some point in the next few weeks, we’ll probably sit down—assuming the union is comfortable doing that. There’s a pretty steep learning curve in terms of the business from the union’s standpoint, what the players are focused on, and we’ve been respectful of that process. So whenever they’re ready, we’re ready. We’ve been ready.”

Speaking of readiness, Bettman spoke about what is likely the greatest fear of hockey people: another protracted work stoppage. When asked if the league “learned a lesson” after the lockout, Bettman’s response was logical but not necessarily soothing:

“I’m not sure it’s about learning lessons, because the lesson that everybody knows – and it’s not one you have to learn – is that you want to not have work stoppages,” Bettman said. “They’re not fun. They’re counter-productive. But if, if you’re in a situation as we were where there were fundamental problems that had to be addressed, you have to address the problems. Because you can’t live with a dysfunctional system.”

It’s not crazy to view that quote as a bit cryptic, especially if he views the current system as dysfunctional.

It’s tough to imagine the league taking that stand, but that doesn’t mean that a work stoppage is out of the question – especially with the aforementioned realignment talk in mind.

If you want to hear more from Bettman’s meeting with the press (expect more on Thursday morning), The OC Register’s Eric Stephens captured some of his full comments in the video below.

Donald Fehr speaks up about NHL’s labor future as problems may lie ahead

Donald Fehr

While the NHL is one of two major sports not currently locking out its players, the labor calm that exists for the time being may not be around a year from now. At the end of the 2011-2012 season, the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA will expire and with that comes the worries and fretting that we all have over whether or not both sides will go to war again over salaries.

With things in the NFL and especially in the NBA currently looking ugly and the possibility of games being canceled a distinct possibility, the memories NHL fans have over the lost 2004-2005 season that never happened are fresh. Donald Fehr is the new head of the NHLPA and while many remember him from his years with the Major League Baseball Players Association and his place in infamy for his hand in helping cancel the 1994 World Series thanks to labor problems, how he handles things with the NHLPA will determine whether he’s a villain in just one sport or two.

Sean Fitz-gerald of The National Post in Canada got Fehr’s take on what’s on the horizon for the NHLPA and their dealings with the NHL and how they’ll need to learn from what other sports are failing to do.

On paying attention to CBA talk in the NFL and NBA:
“Of course you pay attention to what’s going on in the other negotiations. There are four sports unions and management negotiations in North America and there are obviously some common themes. Having said that, the economics of all four sports are different; the players are different; the demographics are different, and so you really do have to individualize negotiations.”

Anything surprise you from the other negotiations?
“No, I don’t think so. I mean, the positions of the NFL and the positions of the NBA were telegraphed a long, long time ago, and they’ve held pretty closely to them. And in both of those leagues, they’ve set out to see if they can secure massive concessions from the players, and that’s what they’re trying to do.”

Fehr says that no formal talks have begun with commissioner Gary Bettman and that fans shouldn’t be worried about things until there’s something to actually worry about. Apparently he doesn’t know what it feels like to be a fan of the game with a fresh wound that still isn’t totally healed from just six years ago.

One aspect that remains similar in the NFL and NBA with what the NHL will look to do is trying to rein things in a bit with money. Of course, the NHL owners were the ones who pushed hard for the current system and went so far as to give up a full season of games to get it put in place. With the sorts of contracts we’ve seen issued by teams to players in order to get around the limits of the CBA, it’s believed the NHL will look to close all those loopholes out and eliminate the extreme long term deals to help circumvent the cap. Larry Brooks of the New York Post believes as much will happen.

Next time, the NHL is going to introduce the ultimate one-size-fits-all cap. Percentage of the gross will be dramatically reduced. The midpoint will essentially become the cap, with the ceiling and floor separated by perhaps $4M-$6M. Deviations of salary within a contract will be kept to a minimum. The cap charge will be defined by the average of the three-to-five highest salaried seasons. Contracts will be kept to a minimum of five-to-seven years.

The players through all this, of course, are going with the limits that were set before them and they’ve been able to take advantage of the owners’ shortsightedness. It’s hard to get angry at the players for taking advantage of a system that was thrown down before them as a cure-all for the salary madness that was taking over the league. It’s not as if a player isn’t going to take an offer that might be worth more than their value on the whole may be for. You take as much as you’re offered and that’s that.

Of course, should things turn ugly as the year wears on and the deadline to get a new CBA approaches, that story line won’t be what’s told and things will always turn into a players vs. owners battle. This time around, everyone could use a lesson or two in financial education.

It’s official: NHLPA elects Donald Fehr as new executive director

Donald Fehr
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It was being discussed a bit yesterday and for the last few months, but today the NHL Players Association put all the speculation to an end and made it official. The players union today overwhelmingly elected former head of the Major League Baseball Players Association Donald Fehr to be the new executive director of the NHLPA.

For the players union this is a very big deal. The NHLPA has famously been a disorganized and self-destructive organization. They’ve gone through leaders of late who have either been malicious towards its members (like Alan Eagleson) or have chewed up representatives on their own for one reason or another (like Bob Goodenow, Ted Saskin, and Paul Kelly). There have been talks of player coups that lead to the dismissal of Paul Kelly and disarray was the standard operating procedure for the union.

With Fehr in charge now, those days are seemingly over. Fehr is a tough character and one who’s most infamously remembered for being on one side of the aisle when Major League Baseball canceled half of the 1994 season when the owners locked out their players leading to there not being a World Series that year. Luckily for Fehr, the NHL has already seen their lowest moment in labor disruption when when the owners locked out the players for the entirety of the 2004-2005 season. There’s no real way for Fehr to do things any worse than what’s already been done.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement regarding Fehr’s election:

“We are pleased that the leadership position at the Players’ Association has been filled, and we look forward to working with Don in his new role.”

Standard reply but not the wordy one we normally get from Bettman. We’re pretty sure that he knows this is a bold step for the NHLPA and that labor negotiations in 2012 aren’t going to be fun.

The stability that Fehr will provide the NHLPA is sorely needed and with labor talks due to come up after the 2011-2012 season, the NHLPA is in desperate need of getting their own house in order especially after getting hammered by the NHL in concessions to end the 04-05 lockout.

For the NHL, going up against an emboldened players union may not be something they’re ready for as they’ve been able to take advantage of the splintered leadership to get what they’ve wanted in the past. The NHLPA isn’t about to be the pushover they’ve been in the past and that’s something fans aren’t exactly all that excited to hear.

Fans are still sore and shell shocked over what happened just six years ago and that’s something that has to stick in the minds of both sides knowing full well that a labor war again so soon after killing an entire season is virtually unacceptable. Smacking the fans around twice in less than ten years is no way to win an overall battle, it’s more like the acting like the WOPR in the movie “War Games” where mutually assured destruction is the only endgame but only way to win is to not even play it out like that.

A stronger players union is better overall for the NHL and let’s face it, there’s still a lot of problems with that side of the game, Fehr’s the best guy they could ask for and considering how well Major League Baseball ended up for having him there, there’s hope that he can help do the same for the NHL and NHLPA. As with anything regarding labor stuff, we’re cautiously optimistic but ready to get our noses shoved in it at any time.