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Fehr vs the NHL; An All Too Familiar Bargaining Battle

Guest Irishjim

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Michael DeNicola

Yahoo! Sports writer Nicholas Cotsonika published an

article yesterday that's raised my brow and has given me a sick feeling in my stomach.

As everyone knows, the National Hockey League's Player Association (NHLPA) rejected the NHL's realignment plan. Well technically, the union's head honcho Don Fehr (

NHLPA Executive Director) was the one who stepped up and broke the disheartening news to the media.

There were multiple reasons why the Players (as a union) were not happy with the NHL's new "Plan". There was the unbalanced Conference format. If you can recall, the original format called for four Conferences; Two of which would have eight teams while the other two consisted of seven.

Doesn't take rocket science to understand why the Players didn't go for this. They felt that there was an advantage to those smaller Conferences in relation to the Playoff format. Which is true. Each Club in the smaller Conferences has a better chance of making the Playoffs (each Conference's Top 4 Teams move on to the post-season).

Another reason the realignment was denied by the Players' union is because of travel. Though the NHL promised less of it, the NHLPA still wanted an example schedule to give them a better idea of what the season's journeys would look like ahead. The League

handed them "mileage charts per teams and other formulas".

This did not fly with the union.

But above all -- and according to the NHL's Chief Legal Officer, Bill Daly -- the current CBA gives the league the right to form the realignment, get it approved by the board of governors, and pass it to the NHLPA to accept by a deadline. Which we've already seen.

Nowhere in the Realignment's process of formation is a chance given to the NHLPA to chime in with their opinion on which pieces should go where. They're simply handed a three-ring binder with a statement inside titled, "Sign On the Dotted Lines and Shut the Hell Up".

Enter NHLPA Executive Director, Donald M. Fehr.

At one time the MLB's Executive Director, Don's only held his position in professional ice hockey since June, 2009. He's promised to be a hardass, the lion with the biggest mane, and a man with a set of cojones made of steel.

Fehr's said, "We’ve done a lot of work based on the information we have. There’s still information we’re going to want to go over – and go over hopefully jointly with representatives of management – which will fill in the pieces."

He's the new kid on the block with true grit, and he's absolutely not a pushover like the butts that filled his seat before him. Basically, Donald Fehr's presence kind of reminds me of a particular


(This is the best embedded quality I could find that wasn't shutdown due to copyrighted YouTube laws, or whatever the kids call it nowadays)

Donald later released this statement:

"On the evening of December 5, 2011, the NHL informed the NHLPA that they proposed to put in place a four-conference format beginning with the 2012-13 season. As realignment affects Players' terms and conditions of employment, the CBA requires the League to obtain the NHLPA's consent before implementation. Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the League and extensive dialogue with Players, most recently on an Executive Board conference call on January 1. Two substantial Player concerns emerged: (1) whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and (2) the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions.

"In order to evaluate the effect on travel of the proposed new structure, we requested a draft or sample 2012-13 schedule, showing travel per team. We were advised it was not possible for the League to do that. We also suggested reaching an agreement on scheduling conditions to somewhat alleviate Player travel concerns (e.g., the scheduling of more back-to-back games, more difficult and lengthier road trips, number of border crossings, etc.), but the League did not want to enter into such a dialogue. The travel estimation data we received from the League indicates that many of the current Pacific and Central teams, that have demanding travel schedules under the current format, could see their travel become even more difficult. On the playoff qualification matter, we suggested discussing ways to eliminate the inherent differences in the proposed realignment, but the League was not willing to do so.

"The League set a deadline of January 6, 2012 for the NHLPA to provide its consent to the NHL's proposal. Players' questions about travel and concerns about the playoff format have not been sufficiently addressed; as such, we are not able to provide our consent to the proposal at this time. We continue to be ready and willing to have further discussions should the League be willing to do so."

Ball's in your court, Bill Daly.

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Rewind that video back to around the 5:40 mark.

Daly addresses the "simple solution" so many deem the easiest way to get over this hump; Just switch Winnipeg to the Western Conference and a Club like Nashville or Columbus to the Eastern Conference.

Billy tells us that that is "not a possibility at this point." Thus eliminating it as an argument for future reference. Back to the drawing board.

This back and forth battle between the League and the Players' union concerns me greatly because the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on 15-September, 2012. The atmosphere existing between both Parties is thick and bitter, and I cannot help but think of the word "lockout".

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Bill Daly are ready to begin negotiating a new CBA with the NHLPA, and although Donald Fehr has said the union would dedicate time to do so after the All-Star Game this Sunday.....it doesn't look like it was going to happen that soon;

“We’ve spent a lot of time going over the agreements, and while it’s safe to say that there are probably a number of general directions we’re going to suggest to the players, I’m not yet ready to say that that process is completed or that there isn’t other information we still hope to get that won’t change our mind about some things.”

But just this past Saturday (21-January), the League and NHLPA negotiated and settled a brouhaha over hockey-related revenue.

This is good news for fans. It's shown us that the NHL and NHLPA are able to work together and finalize a solution they both can deal with. Perhaps the Parties will conduct the inner-talks of a new CBA with similar civics?

One can hope.

But it's evident both cliques see themselves as the **** of the roost; One's been crowing for awhile now, while the other is beginning to push back. This will be a very aggressive conciliation process. Not so much about money (yet it's always about money), but rather about giving the players more control in the CBA's bylaws than they do in today's bargaining agreement.

Though a meeting between the League and the NHLPA to discuss a fresh CBA has not been scheduled, Donald Fehr thinks this should not give anyone a reason to assume anything;

“I think what happens in a lead-up to bargaining like this, especially given the yearlong lockout we had last time, is that you have a lot of members of your profession who understandably are looking for omens. They’re looking for signs as to which way the wind is blowing, and what you tend to do is extrapolate perhaps in circumstances in which you really shouldn’t.”

That's easy for him to say. He's in-the-know.

While players worry about their escrow dollars and the League worries about the revenue sharing, you and I are stuck at home worried we may not see a 2012-13 season. We don't want to relive 2004-05 all over again. We're looking in every direction for a sign that tells us the gears are in forward motion.

We want to hear the puck tickle the twine next year. We want to sign online and smack talk a divisional/conference rival fan after our squad pounded theirs the night before. We want to argue about mid-season performance grades and tell our friends which trades we believe SHOULD happen.

I wanna see my Flyers raise the Stanley Cup!

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We have all been trying to figure out what going to happen to the Flyers next season. We should be asking "will there be a season next year?"... Depressing thought. All the progress the NHL has made would go down the toilet and we loose a year of all our rookies while our older players just get older... But hey, maybe Pronger will recover by the 2013/14 season!

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