When Donald Fehr took over as the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, he offered an olive branch to commissioner Gary Bettman.
In a far-reaching interview in early 2011, Fehr said he wasn’t taking over the position to create any problems or have a fight with anyone. He was there to do what’s best for his members. Sounded good, but anyone who knew Fehr, knew that he was jerking Bettman’s chain.
Friday night, Fehr yanked Bettman’s chain again.
A realignment plan that was approved 26-4 by the teams and got the thumbs up from the more than two dozen players with whom I spoke, was not approved by Fehr and the NHL Players’ (Agents?) Association.
That brought a long response from the league (see: Outstanding! Another Year in Florida, below), but here was the money line: "It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approved a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players."
I particularly like the use of the word, "unreasonably."
Bettman, who can become quite prickly when someone does or says something he doesn’t like (see: Ron MacLean), was obviously pissed. This was his realignment. He, and pretty much everyone else, knew it made sense, andyet his new best friend, Don Fehr, threw it right back in his face.
However, keep this mind. Fehr isn’t an idiot. He knows that the realignment agreement made sense. He knew that vast majority of his members have stated publicly that they liked it. This is a man who just wants a preliminary bout.
As we know, the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15. Initial discussions on a new CBA are set for the all-star break. Don Fehr has just told Gary Bettman that the negotiations are going to be no cakewalk. As the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Fehr made it clear that he had no patience for salary caps and he will not allow his members to give up the 57 per cent of revenues they have already collectively bargained (the owners want what the NBA owners got, abut 50 per cent). Hockey fans should brace for a long, ugly ordeal.
There is a war looming. On Friday night, Donald Fehr fired the first shot.