The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/22/12 at 08:07 PM ET
After the NHLPA’s executive board meets from June 25-27 in Chicago, the PA will officially be ready to put the pedal to the CBA negotiating medal. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told the Canadian Press that the meetings, which are supposed to draw upwards of 50 players, will serve as a springboard to negotiations that the PA’s already prepared to begin:
“We’ll be prepared and have been prepared to start bargaining with the owners,” Fehr told The Canadian Press on Friday ahead of the NHL draft. “I think those (talks) will start — although not announcing the precise date yet — very quickly after the end of our meeting.”
The NHLPA’s approach to CBA negotiations will borrow heavily from the lessons Fehr learned while spending more than three decades with the Major League Baseball Players Association. During the last round of NHL negotiations — when a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season — the union had just seven players on the committee tasked with hammering out the agreement under former leader Bob Goodenow. Fehr was hired in 2010 and thinks it’s important to have a wider cross-section of his membership participating in the process.
“It’s very important for players to be involved — it’s their futures, it’s their contracts — and they understand that,” he said. “And so I’ve always operated under the general philosophy that if a player wants to come to a bargaining meeting then he should be encouraged to. It doesn’t matter whether he’s on the executive board, the negotiating committee or he got to the league three days ago. It really doesn’t matter. He has a right to come, he has a right to be involved, he has a right to know what the issues are.”
Fehr indicated the meetings in Chicago will feature a “very full agenda.” In addition to leading players through an extensive conversation about the important issues, he intends to touch on where they’ve been as well.
“Obviously, what happened in the last round of negotiations is the starting point for this round of bargaining,” said Fehr. “The players made what can only be characterized as enormous concessions. And so you want to make sure that the players understand what happened the last time and that they take that as the beginnings of where things go from here.”
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess how things will go this time around — at least until Fehr and Bettman start exchanging proposals. The atmosphere is certainly less gloomy now than in 2004, when the fundamental issue of the salary cap left the sides at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Fehr remains hopeful that a deal can be made without the acrimony that has traditionally existed between the league and union.
“I certainly hope we can take the progress that’s been made and the conceited significant uptick the game is on and roll with it and keep pushing the puck forward,” he said. “It’s not fair of me to anticipate what they’re going to do. And so we’ll just wait and see.”
I sure as hell hope so. I sure as hell hope that the game will indeed continue to roll and that those pucks will be dropped on time this fall. Neither the NHL nor the PA can afford it, and, thankfully, Pavel Datsyuk is far from alone when he says that the players understand that fans lose, first, foremost and most importantly in instances of any sort of “lockout” or “work stoppage,” and that much is encouraging in itself, because the players aren’t taking their fans’ fidelity for granted.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.