Donald Fehr sees an “enormous opportunity” to grow the game of hockey

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With the CBA set to expire on Sept. 15, it’s easy to look at NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr with a degree of apprehension. However, part of the reason Fehr joined the NHLPA in the first place was because he has a very optimistic view about the sports’ potential internationally.

“There is an enormous opportunity in this sport internationally that doesn’t exist in other sports,” Fehr said. “The NFL is primarily watched in the U.S. Basketball has made tremendous inroads abroad but is still primarily U.S. Major League Baseball is American except for some presence in Japan.

“Hockey is different. It has an audience in North America and across Europe. There is an opportunity to create cross-Atlantic events of various sorts that could create audiences on both sides. I don’t know of another sport that can do that. That’s pretty exciting to me.”

Fehr said that he’s personally interested in having a four-year cycle for international tournaments where the Olympics are played in Year One and then a World Cup of Hockey in Year Three of the cycle.

“I do think in order to do anything, you, we have to develop a plan, and it has to be a long-term plan,” Fehr said. “Hopefully, after we get our CBA done, we will be in a position to have a discussion to see what we can figure out. But one thing is, if you want to have a large event that captures a larger audience, you need to have the best of the players, and so you’re going to want to have the NHL players involved somehow.”

The NHL still hasn’t committed to playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics and it will be interesting to see if that will be a significant subject of discussion during the upcoming CBA negotiations.