The long-anticipated hiring of Donald Fehr as the head of the National Hockey League Players' Association was completed Saturday.
According to a release from the NHLPA, Fehr received the overwhelming support of the union in a membership vote conducted in September after the NHLPA's executive board recommended the former boss of the baseball players' union for the position.
"This process took a while because from the players' standpoint, they wanted to be sure and, from my standpoint, I wanted them to be sure that they had made a decision that they were comfortable with, that all the players had an opportunity to have their say and that this judgment represented a consensus view of the entire membership," Fehr said Saturday afternoon during a conference call. "It has. That's both quite an honor and it is also quite humbling."
Fehr, 62, takes control of the players' union immediately. He had been serving as an unpaid consultant to the union since November. He takes over an organization that has seen a fair amount of upheaval in the recent past. The NHLPA has now had four different leaders since 2005.
"We are pleased that the leadership position at the players' association has been filled, and we look forward to working with Don in his new role," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
"It's an important time for the players, an important time for the industry and I think, with the proper perspective, it can be a very positive time for all involved."
-- Donald Fehr
Fehr spent 33 years with the baseball union before walking away in 2009. Now, he turns his attention to the hockey players' union, which will have to negotiate a new labor agreement with the League when the current CBA expires after the 2011-12 season.
Fehr said Saturday that his need to familiarize himself with the dynamics of the sport's business model as well as the needs of his constituency most likely precludes the start of negotiations on a new CBA in the short-term.
"Down the road a few months, I expect to have a much better idea of when it might make sense and, hopefully, at that point we’ll have had some discussions with people on the other side of the table to see if they have a different view of it,” Fehr said.
He said Saturday, though, that his group will be ready to bargain well before the expiration of the current deal.
“I’m looking forward to what the following months and years may bring, especially the period leading up to and the negotiation of the new CBA,” Fehr said. “It’s an important time for the players, I think it’s an important time for the industry and I think viewed with a proper perspective it can be a very positive time for all involved.”
He also said he believes a new deal can be worked out without resorting to any form of work stoppage.
"If you would ask me, do I anticipate a stoppage, the answer is ‘no’ and I certainly don’t hope we will have one," Fehr said. "But I’m not going to predict what happens during negotiations."
The NHLPA also announced Saturday that the membership has voted overwhelmingly to accept amendments that were put forward by the Constitution Committee, consisting of Steve Montador, Dominic Moore, Tim Thomas and Marty Turco, and endorsed by the Executive Board. The new constitution takes effect immediately. The new amendments give the head of the union a more consolidated set of powers and simplify some of the association's decision-making processes.