There are still another seven seasons remaining in the NHL's current collective bargaining agreement and the league's business is booming to the point of serious and public expansion discussion. But as far as NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr is concerned, once the CBA ends after the 2021-22 campaign, the league's labor history will repeat in the most unfortunate of ways.
That's right. Prepare yourself for another lockout.
“If you put baseball to the side where there’s no cap, I don’t see anything yet which suggests any of the other three (North American) leagues are likely to break out of the phenomenon of a lockout every time, because a salary cap produces that phenomenon on the management side,” Fehr told THN Wednesday in an interview for a feature that appears in THN's upcoming People of Power And Influence special edition. “(Owners) think they’ve got nothing to lose: “Let’s just go see what happens, and maybe we’ll get a little bit more.”
The 66-year-old Fehr – who has made an art out of eloquently keeping his cards close to the vest – discussed a wide array of topics for the feature, including NHLers potentially dealing with gambling and other temptations while playing in Las Vegas (“Lots of people live in Las Vegas and obey the law,”), the recent mumps outbreak and concussion protocols, and the prospect of independent doctors evaluating injured players (as opposed to the team doctors who currently have that job).
“As it is now, players have a complete right to a second medical opinion, so they’re not locked in exclusively to team doctors,” Fehr said. “But I’m sure that (independent doctors is) an issue that will get attention as time goes on.”
Fehr also spoke of the keys to leading a players' association, which he's now done for more than three decades (26 years with the Major League Baseball Players' Association and now five with the NHLPA).
“If you can maintain knowledgeable, informed consent among the players with very heavy support, you can do the rest of this job,” Fehr said. “If you can't maintain that, it doesn’t really matter what else you can do.”