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Donald Fehr Talks About Growing The Game

from Andrew Podnieks of IIHF.com, BARCELONA –

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spoke to the Hockey Forum crowd this afternoon and sounded nothing but enthusiastic about the possibility to grow the game in Europe and around the world – and he indicated NHL players have every desire to be a part of such a plan.

“The first reason I took this job,” Fehr began, “was that, because of some restructuring in the NHLPA, players asked me to help them with various projects. I did that for a year.

“I really liked the players but there was another reason. There is an enormous opportunity in this sport internationally that doesn’t exist in other sports. 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.

“All things being equal, the players tell me that they want to play the best in the world,” Fehr said, starting to bring the NHL players into the discussion.


Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: donald+fehr


CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Fehr seems to be a little out of touch. Perhaps someone should send him a link to George’s “blame the nhl post” about how the IIHF wants to enslave European players and make it extremely difficult for those players to bring their talents to the NHL.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 06/13/12 at 02:46 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The way the NHL has treated Europe has been on the owners, not on the players. 

Either Fehr is a bit naive here or he’s very shrewdly putting pressure on the NHL to get people talking about how the league has mishandled their power and the international arm of hockey has adjusted to keep more of their own talent at home.

I don’t believe Fehr is naive.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/13/12 at 02:51 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

How have the owners treated Europe?

The European clubs seem to have this “quaint” notion that they “own” their players. To me that is slavery at worst and at best it’s no better than the old MLB reserve clause.  If I’m a player in Switzerland and my contract is up and I want to sign with an NHL squad (or even a NA minor league team), why should the Swiss club get a dime of compensation or be able to stop me since I’m no longer under contract?

Did the Wings get any compensation when Happy went to the KHL? Did Bubba get any compensation when what’s his name went to the KHL? No and no.

I rarely side with the owners, but I don’t see how they have done anything wrong regarding European players. The best players want to make the most money and play against the best competition. At this point in time that is still the NHL. If the European clubs don’t like it, let them start paying their players more money.

The NHL should tell the IIHF to go eff itself. How about a clause in the new CBA that prevents NHLers from playing in the World Championships and the Olympics? The players are getting paid big bucks by NHL owners and the contracts already prohibit dangerous activities like skiing, motocross and dog sledding, why not add playing hockey for another team to the list. Let’s see how good the ratings are for the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament are without the NHL players.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 06/13/12 at 03:33 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Why is it that Bettman comes over from the NBA but never understands the sport, but Fehr comes over from MLB and nobody makes the same claim of being sport-stupid?

Anyhow, I’m with CaptainDennisPolonich on this one.  This “Boo hoo, poor Euro clubs and leagues” thing is dumb.  Is it the NHL’s fault it’s the best league on the planet so the best players want to play there?  Is it the NHL’s fault they can pay the most money?  Why do these European clubs “deserve” anything?  This isn’t socialism, it’s capitalism, bay-bee!

I’ve wondered for a while now what would happen if the NHL decided to dabble in their own European super-league, well-funded.  Give a Mark Cuban an NHL franchise and get him involved with the project.  They could probably easily put most of those euro leagues out of business within a year or two.  Put a team in London, one in Paris, two or three in Germany, one in Switzerland, one is Austria, one or two in Sweden, one or two in Finland, one is Slovakia, one or two in Czech Republic, one in Latvia… maybe even try to get 2 or 3 Russian clubs on-board… and see what happens.

So many of these European leagues are struggling anyways.  And the IIHF just stands in the way of so much of the sport’s growth in the interest of “protecting” themselves..

I know things like NFL Europe fell on their face, but that’s because football didn’t have built-in appeal.  The fanbase in Europe is already THERE, someone with money just needs to come along and fund a super-league and get on with it.  And since nobody in Europe seems to be willing or to have the capitol and organization…. why not the NHL?

I don’t see this hurting the AHL either, as most of those young Euro players don’t and won’t play in the AHL to develop anyways.  Keep the AHL as the North American AAA, put together the Euro Hockey League (EHL) as the European AAA equivalent for players based there while still leaving the door open for those teams to sign NHL malcontents (Radulov, Semin, etc) and fringe guys to make it more attractive.

At the end of the seasons, let the AHL champ play the EHL champ (with option for NHL clubs to send down eligible young players to the AHL clubs to help level the field as it were), or even take 2 or 4 from the two leagues and put them in a tourney.

Truth is, I doubt you’d see much of a difference in the way things work (I bet the talent pools and caliber would end up just about the same) EXCEPT that A) you would eliminate the interfering IIHF that is bad for the sport, and B) you’d eliminate a lot of the sense of “competition” between Europe and North America where these Euro leagues think they “deserve” more.

Most importantly, there could finally be STABILITY in Europe.  Maybe start out the EHL with a 16-team league with opportunity to add more markets there.  EHL wouldn’t even need affiliations necessarily, because I doubt that’d fly.

Posted by Primis on 06/13/12 at 04:20 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Did the Wings get any compensation when Happy went to the KHL? Did Bubba get any compensation when what’s his name went to the KHL? No and no.

Ask Metallurg how they feel about what they got in compensation for Evgeni Malkin, who actually WAS under contract.

I’m not saying the European leagues are innocent in this thing, but the way the NHL and the IIHF have handled this bullshit is bad for hockey players, regardless of their side of the pond and part of that is the NHL clamoring for compensation for players’ rights that they only just now started respecting.

European (and especially KHL) rules have gotten more stringent and stupid in regards to a player’s rights because the NHL was playing with a double-standard with them for so long.

Fehr is doing hockey players the most good by bringing it up, as that was the original point.  This isn’t hockey players doing things which make it harder for hockey players; it is hockey executives.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/13/12 at 04:35 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

who actually WAS under contract.

... in fairness, Radulov was also under contract. He just basically did to the NHL what they had done to the KHL with the Malkin situation thanks to the lack of a transfer agreement that was partially caused by the Malkin situation.

Hudler was a free agent when he signed in the KHL. His arbitration hearing didn’t happen until 20 days after he signed his contract and restricted free agency only restricts other NHL clubs, it does not restrict international clubs from signing a guy.  Again, the Radulov situation mirrors the precedent set. When he left the KHL to re-join the Predators, he did so as a restricted free agent of that league.  Nobody in the NHL has to respect that his KHL rights belong to a Russian club just like nobody in the KHL has to respect that his NHL rights belong to the Predators.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/13/12 at 04:42 PM ET


Well let’s just hope Fehr realizes that hockey is a little different than baseball.  It’s slowly taking root, another work stioppage will hurt and reverse the trend.

Posted by 13 user names on 06/13/12 at 09:47 PM ET

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