Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 12/19/12 at 02:02 PM ET
from Elliotte Friedman of CBC,
I don't know if the league underestimated NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr or just received horrible intel on him. But it did not recognize two very important things.
First, Fehr's idealogical beliefs are very strong. You may consider his CBA history lessons boring or irrelevant. But he doesn't. More importantly, he convinced the players how much it mattered and they rallied behind him.
There've been times during this process when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's supporters have taken issue with my position that he has disrespected the players. That's fair comment and those people are correct to point out that the players, especially on Twitter, have disrespected him, too. But the fact is that some of the NHL's negotiating moves helped Fehr gain a greater buy-in. There is no doubt in my mind the vast majority of the players want to play. But some of Bettman's decisions accomplished the reverse, pushing the NHLPA in the opposite direction. It was counter-productive.
The second thing the NHL missed was Fehr's history of waiting until the last second to make deals. Whatever mistakes the league made in this process, it wanted to be playing by now. We've talked about the Proskauer Rose playbook and how this is all scripted by "the law firm that's ruining sports." But I really believe this has gone further than Bettman wanted it to, which is why he looks so frustrated. Now Fehr is controlling the tempo and has convinced his constituency that the owners will make final concessions at the end. A lot of players don't like how long this is taking yet they seem to believe that.
Hence, the NHL's change in strategy. It's going to wait.
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