Former NHLPA head thinks it’s “too early” to worry about lockout

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Paul Kelly didn’t run the NHLPA for very long – something he expressed regret about (whether it was his fault or not) – but his connection with the players association still gives him deeper insight on the upcoming CBA negotiations. TSN legal analyst Eric Macramalla spoke with Kelly about a wide variety of those subjects and the general takeaway is that it’s “too early” to worry about a lockout.

Don’t fear the lockout (yet)

Kelly believes that concerns are “premature.”

“I do think it’s too early to start worrying we won’t have hockey come September,” Kelly said.

When asked if the NHL could afford to lock out, Kelly echoed the common belief that a “large number of fans would turn away in disgust.”

Tweaks

“[The] NHL is not going to be out to recreate the CBA,” Kelly said. “It’s not broken. [It doesn’t] need a radical fix.”

I can’t help but agree with that standpoint. Last time around, the NHL proposed an absolutely radical change in the form of a newly instituted salary cap. Sure there are some big potential changes – most notably a possible realignment – but not on that same (extremely contentious) level.

That’s not to say that some teams won’t be strongly proposing much-needed alterations, though. Kelly backs up the belief that lower-budget teams might want the salary cap floor to be relaxed, even saying that 8-12 teams would have had “significantly lower” salaries if not for the minimum.

Leadership

Kelly had glowing things to say about leadership for the NHLPA, praising Donald Fehr’s experience and Mathieu Schneider’s goals to protect players. The general message is that the players are in “good hands” going into the next CBA.

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There’s nothing necessarily “groundbreaking” in what Kelly says, but it’s nice to hear some mostly-reassuring things from a person once on the inside. That doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy process, although it’s a sign that we shouldn’t lose sleep about Lockout 2.0 just yet.