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Will Donald Fehr, NHLPA bring another lockout?

Mar 25, 2010, 5:15 PM EDT

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donald fehr.jpgWhether this is good news or not remains to be seen, but the murmurs are turning into rumbles. It sounds like there’s a good chance that former Major League Baseball Player’s Association leader Donald Fehr will run hockey’s players association. Moving him into that position now would provide plenty of time to prepare for the looming re-negotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Again, that might not be a good thing for hockey fans (but then again, these decisions aren’t exactly made with the fans in mind anyway).

Whenever the NHL’s Player Association is in the news, many hardened lockout veterans squirm and consider the possibility of another debilitating lockout. The NHLPA has been in a near-constant state of uproar ever since Bob Goodenow resigned after the horribly unsuccessful year off.

Say what you will about Goodenow, the player’s association certainly hasn’t prospered since he left. Sports fans know the Fehr’s name for stomach-churning reasons: he ran Major League Baseball’s players association during their wildly unpopular strike. No doubt about it, though, the NHLPA could certainly use a clear leader. Let’s take a look at the organization’s mishaps since the lockout.

  • Bob Goodenow resigns in shame after the lockout in July 2005. Again, say what you will about the man, he advanced players salaries with staggering success. Besides, he brought a level or respect to the union after its name was profoundly damaged by Alan Eagleson. James Mirtle’s perspective ended up being dead-on.

And, after months of being the public face of the union, the irksome Ted Saskin is its new head. Consider this a lateral move for hockey fans.

  • In a scandal fit for an episode of “The Office,” Ted Saskin was fired in May 2007 after reports surfaced that he conducted “e-mail surveillance.” Sorry, Chris Chelios; no more LOLcats e-mails.
  • Paul Kelly was ousted from the NHLPA in what almost seemed like a military coup in August 2009. Sports Illustrated’s Alan Muir painted the picture.

Kelly, whose only failing during his nearly two-year tenure may have been ignoring those warnings himself, was marched to the guillotine after a palace coup at 3:30 Monday morning. He was replaced Monday evening on an interim basis by general counsel Ian Penny, a holdover from the Bob Goodenow era who recently was granted a long-term contract extension without Kelly’s knowledge.

Hoping for some kind of smoking gun to justify the dismissal? Don’t hold your breath.

As you can see, the union has been in disarray since the last few years. You could create the world’s blandest soap opera with all the back stabbing going on. Can Fehr bring the authority that the association needs? Really, I think I speak for most hockey fans when I say, “Do whatever it takes to avoid another lockout.” Hockey’s still struggling because of that last one, but the next one could be a death blow for the NHL.

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