Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Donald Fehr's the man, plus touching upon possible NHLPA decertification

Granted, he's no angel, but the NHLPA did well hiring him.

Yeah, the haters can let loose and talk about baseball and the loss of the 1994 World Series, but has there been a work stoppage since?

And for those who say the players should just take what's been offered and get back to playing, put a sock in it...

and get a life.

Sorry that you have no focal point for you docile life now that hockey's gone, but that's not the fault of hockey. There's plenty of hockey outside of the NHL to watch as the AHL is stronger and the minor leagues offer glimpses of future NHL greatness.

Oh, you're not interested in that? Not interested in what those have to offer? Won't pay to see second and third-rate hockey?

Thank you. You justified why the players make what they do. The average AHL attendance for last season was 5638. The Phoenix Coyotes, whipping-boy for everything that's wrong with Commish Gary Bettman and the foibles of NHL owners, had an average home attendance of 12,420.

"The players are spoiled millionaires," you say, "while I bust my ass just happy to have a job and make what I make."

Dump that thought.

Once again, any comparisons between professional athletes and "Average Joe" need to stop immediately and y'all need to get your head straight. Nobody in their right mind would spend money to watch "Average Joe" unload a truck, crunch numbers at an accounting firm, design a building, or flip a cheeseburger. About the closest thing is watching a "Cocktail"-like bartender ply his trade or a Japanese chef swirl his knives while cooking your dinner. In which case, there's no admission charge as the entertainment is paid for by tips. (btw, the better the bartender or chef, the more they make which might be construed as a Pro athlete/Average Joe comparable)

So get over yourself. Sidney Crosby should never be compared to "Joe Schmoe." Nor should the NHL be compared to any other business in the "real world."

Jeremy White is a world-class owner apologist whenever the lockout comes up on WGR. "The players are paid well, they should take their cut and play hockey," he says. And he also says that there is no partnership, the owners own the business and they're in charge.

White, like many of us "Average Joe's," doesn't fully understand the relationship of owners, players and U.S. anti-trust laws either.

A caller on The Hockey Hotline yesterday laid out the relationship very well, and here it is in a nutshell:
  • There are anti-trust laws in the U.S. that say there cannot be a monopoly in an area of business.
  • The NHL (like the other major U.S. sports) have a monopoly on their sport.
  • They dictate the professional life of an NHL player from being drafted, to the minors to his entry-level contract, to restricted free agency to the point of unrestricted free agency.
  • They also, as a group, the owners say how much a player can make on his entry-level contract and through the cap, at all stages of his career.
  • The NHL is in complete control, and it would be illegal in the United States except for the existence of the players union and the negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the two sides.
  • Through that agreement, the players allow the league that control as long as they are compensated (in their eyes) fairly.
The fact is, there is a partnership between the NHL and NHLPA and it exists because of the CBA. If the NHLPA union decertified, like the NFLPA did a little while back, the NHL would be in violation of United States anti-trust laws in terms of monopolizing a business. (*quick note, those laws seem to be softening in favor of the owners)

I'd bet that most fans never even considered the aforementioned partnership of pro sports ownership and their respective unions.

As for Fehr, he knows what he's doing. He knows how to decipher offers, how to bargain (if the other side is ready to sit down at the table) and he's a great communicator with his constituents.

From the get-go, he knew what was coming and told the players to put money away (two years salary) as the owners were serious about this lockout.

From the first offer made by the NHL, he explained to the players what the offer was and how it would affect their career (not that much needed to be explained with that nonsensical offer.)

He's a shrewd negotiator and has kept his agenda on the table, much to the consternation of the NHL, knowing full well where the NHL wants to be.

Fehr keeps the players informed and will travel anywhere they want him to as evidenced by his trip to Minnesota in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

But, through all of this, his biggest task will be to keep his 700 constituents together as one. Right now, any cracks in the union are hairline, as the players won't feel the full affects of the lockout financially until next month when there will be no income coming in ( they just received their one and only escrow check.)

Fehr was in Minnesota briefing players on the lastest developments and sat down with Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Mike Russo (via CBSSportlsine's Brian Stubitz) and admitted that there are some fractures in the union but said, 'it doesn't mean you make a bad deal because of it.'

He also knows (and has always known, one would think) that there eventually be a 50/50 split of revenues between the NHL and the players. How they end up there remains to be worked out as well as a bevy of other "smaller issues" that are on the table, but he is willing to work and to keep the best interests of his constituency in mind.

Former NHLPA reps Bob Goodenow and Paul Kelly opened the door to the salary-cap world in 2004. With that in place the owners seem hell-bent upon wringing everything they can out of the players, not only to increase revenues but also to cover their own foibles and constant missteps.

With those salary-cap floodgates open, Fehr is trying to place the responsibility of the owner's problems in it's proper place, right on their laps, not where the owner's want to place it, with the players.

If there ever was a negotiator to get the job done on behalf of the players, it's Donald Fehr.

Addendum from the Washington Post, November 21, 2012 by Thomas Boswell on Donald Fehr

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