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Yes Fehr, No Bettman

via Mike Harrington of Sabres Edge,

Retired New York Times baseball writer Murray Chass is considered one of the godfathers of reporting on sports labor relations, and was honored by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2003 (right) as the winner of the J.G. Spink Award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Chass worked closely for many years covering Marvin Miller, the late czar of the MLB Players' Association and the mentor of current NHLPA czar Donald Fehr, and intimately knows how Fehr operates.

So you should take Chass' column on Fehr posted on his personal Web site today as pretty solid analysis. The headline is "Bet on Fehr, Not Bettman."

Wrote Chass: "Major League Baseball’s annual revenue has soared beyond $7 billion, and baseball is so awash in money that the two sides don’t need to fight over caps and taxes. The N.H.L., meanwhile, remains in the dark ages of labor relations. Bettman has made sure they stay there with no apparent emergence or advance in sight." Chass' column is a pretty insightful read.

Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

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Only a pair of writers in New York could think Major League baseball’s in a great place. While it’s grown a bunch in the last two decades, it’s grown at a lower rate than just about every sport I can think of other than Boxing. Formula one racing has show a higher growth rate. Baseball also routinely gets clobbered in the demographics that correlate to future success.

Harrington does make one salient point.

Memo to hockey: This isn’t 1978. Stop fighting the union. You need to form a partnership

What empowers Fehr to seek whatever ends it is he’s seeking (and, as I’ve said before, it isn’t maximizing earnings for his membership) is that anytime the league gets frustrated and spits in his face, the players take it as a personal affront to them. And angry hockey players aren’t going to back down from a fight when challenged, even if they know they’ll just lose worse by not backing down.

Guys who do have it in their DNA to back down or don’t have it in their DNA to band together generally wash out in juniors, unless they do something else a Hell of a lot better than other guys (a far above average skater for his size with no balls might make it to the big show).

This aspect of the hockey player identity is a double-edged sword. It has seen 2 executive directors (Fehr, Eagleson) exploit it to work contrary to their interests and a third was cannibalized in a pack frenzy that served no purpose.

But that bravery can be an ouroborus doesn’t change the fact that insulting the honor of such people will not get Gary Bettman what he wants when he wants it.

Posted by larry on 12/13/12 at 03:55 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Murray Chass is a Clown, for Half of Baseball there is 1 %  chance of them making the playoffs

Posted by Evilpens on 12/13/12 at 04:19 PM ET

Slumpy's avatar

MLB union is the strongest of the four main sports thanks to Fehr, @larry.

I’m sure the players knew that the NHL owners would be tough after they hired Fehr but not be willing to lockout another whole season again so soon after all the league gained since 2005.

Proof that the BOG and the bettman/daly law firm do not care about the integrity of the sport or it’s fans.

 

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 12/13/12 at 04:21 PM ET

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Proof that the BOG and the bettman/daly law firm do not care about the integrity of the sport or it’s fans.

But baseball, why that’s a sport which is obviously all about ‘integrity’.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/13/12 at 04:56 PM ET

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MLB union is the strongest of the four main sports thanks to Fehr, @larry.

Correction: The MLBPA is the strongest of the four unions thanks to Steinbrenner and Yankee Global. Understand, the Yankees are baseball, and have been for more than a decade now. The entire national television deal is predicated upon that team’s popularity.

And what’s good for the Yankees just happens to coincide with what Don Fehr could accept.

I’m sure the players knew that the NHL owners would be tough after they hired Fehr but not be willing to lockout another whole season again so soon after all the league gained since 2005.

The most effective labor negotiator in professional sports was one Bob Goodenow, not one Donald Fehr. Fehr never had his guys pocketing 75% of all revenue. Goodenow did.

If NHL ownership was scared of a fight, there wouldn’t have been a labor dispute in 2005, let alone with a weaker executive director in 2012.

Proof that the BOG and the bettman/daly law firm do not care about the integrity of the sport or it’s fans.

Sorry, you can either make a point about the NHL not valuing integrity of the sport or reference baseball as a better model. Can’t do both. Baseball’s got 1 Maple Leafs (but bigger) about 4 Philadelphia Flyers, another 6 nashvilles and 20 feeder teams that sell tickets to firework shows and subsist on charity. Its players are mercs who shoot horse testosterone into their veins during contract years, then stink afterwards. Its finest players demand separate facilities and transport from their teammates because they all think so little of one another.

Baseball has less “integrity” than cycling.

Posted by larry on 12/13/12 at 06:06 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

They should just make the NHL like the Olympics.  You have to be born a citizen of whatever state your team resides in.  Then you don’t have to worry about artificially creating parity by neutralizing the effects of good team management vs. bad and you can leave it to population and genetics.  Would also force out teams in states where hockey doesn’t matter and is artificially propped up.  It’d be great for owners who “can’t help themselves” by still having a capitalist market to operate in, just no other options for the player pool you’re picking from as far as the players having mobility options so they wouldn’t have to inflate the price so much to compete with clubs on the same level.

And players would get to play hockey for a living which should be payment enough but, whatever.

/sarcasm.


I did like larry’s post about making players employment like the rest of us since we compare their salaries to the rest of us, then the players should be at-will like the rest of us and have the option to leave if they don’t like their current situation and allows the owners to fire them if they dont’ like their performance.  If we’re comparing hockey players to “normal” people.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/13/12 at 06:34 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Baseball has less “integrity” than cycling.

Posted by larry on 12/13/12 at 06:06 PM ET

Oh come on now.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/13/12 at 06:49 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I think you mean comraderie, not integrity, at least on the points aside from the juicing.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/13/12 at 07:31 PM ET

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I did like larry’s post about making players employment like the rest of us since we compare their salaries to the rest of us, then the players should be at-will like the rest of us and have the option to leave if they don’t like their current situation and allows the owners to fire them if they dont’ like their performance.  If we’re comparing hockey players to “normal” people.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/13/12 at 06:34 PM ET

And when, exactly, did I say any of this?

Posted by larry on 12/13/12 at 07:35 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

You may not have been the person who mentioned squashing the CBA, sorry if I attributed the quote to your wrongly.  Read the post in another thread on the first two pages of KK.  The notion of at-wil employment instead of CBA based SPC’s.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/13/12 at 07:43 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Formula one racing has show a higher growth rate.

What did you mean with the italics? It’s a sponsor-based sport, it reflects in the real world (most automotive technology came from F1 cars) and it’s worldwide know, unlike American leagues.

If you said bowling, or poker, or anything else, I might agree. But knocking on this huge organization? Weird.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 12/14/12 at 06:28 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Only a pair of writers in New York could think Major League baseball’s in a great place. While it’s grown a bunch in the last two decades, it’s grown at a lower rate than just about every sport I can think of other than Boxing. Formula one racing has show a higher growth rate. Baseball also routinely gets clobbered in the demographics that correlate to future success.

Posted by larry on 12/13/12 at 03:55 PM ET

Not really. MLB is in a real good place—strong attendance in most markets, lots of advertising and merchandise income, and perhaps most importantly, they are not a gate-driven league… they have excellent TV contracts. No doubt, the NFL is king, and there’s no end in sight to that, but MLB is a solid second-place in the North American sports landscape.

Formula One should grow faster, as it is a worldwide sport. Baseball has little appeal outside the U.S. It’s also harder for a larger, more established entity to achieve a high growth rate. MLB doesn’t need to reach for high growth rates (like the NHL does). It needs to sustain small growth to keep the current hold it has on the U.S. consumer’s sports and entertainment dollar.

Otherwise, despite the fact that I’m inclined to agree with the conclusion Chass is peddling, I do have to say that the way he gets there is clumsy. Chass may be a HOFer, but his profession has changed and advanced a lot, especially in the last ten years, and he’s clearly been left behind.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 12/14/12 at 08:43 AM ET

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Let me make sure I got this straight, some people (not all) that have been calling the media nothing but a bunch of left leaning pro-union liberals (whic really helps further the deabte)  are comfortable asking that the NHL support fanchises that are too historically important (too big to fail), give bailouts to bankrupt teams (public subsidies for arenas), prevent ownership from moving failing franchises (e.g. to Hamilton) and support giving out participation medals (re-distribution of wealth) to teams that can’t make the playoffs when it is an owner of a big, succesful market that is openly competing and crushing their team?  Not sure how politics ever got involved in the original discussion, but since they brought it , they may want to evaulate which side of the coin they are flip-flopping on. Pro-owners and free markets or anti-owner and central control of the market?

PS
I said go ahead and get rid of the CBA if the union is what holding this up. That would also get rid of the draft and many other things that ensure competitive “parity” that people are accustomed to, but would allow teams to truly compete against one another and force players to do the same.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/14/12 at 11:29 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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