The NHL Player Association is relevant again. The union has Don Fehr to thank.
Fire in NHL players' union is fanned by Don Fehr
The NHL Player Association is relevant again. The union was in shambles following the 2004/05 lockout and an internal power vacuum threatened to collapse the organisation from within.
No one was crying poor for the players, not with an average salary in the neighbourhood of US$2.5 million (Dh9.2m), but the league was doing pretty much whatever it wanted and the players were forced to follow along or be swept aside. The NHLPA was a union in name only; it was disorganised, disconnected and in complete disarray.
Enter Don Fehr. The longtime head of Major League Baseball's players union agreed to try out hockey rather than ease into retirement. He has been in charge for more than a year, but has flown under the radar, meeting with teams and players rather than the media as he tried to deliver his message, stabilise the organisation and forge a united front.
And now he's finally made an aggressive move on the NHL, rejecting the league's realignment desires. The NHL had planned to go to four conferences starting next season in an attempt to balance the schedule and teams' travel - and, in all likelihood, that's what will ultimately happen.
But Fehr has made it known that it is not a unilateral league decision, and that the NHLPA is not prepared to sign off. Not yet, anyway. It is a public relations move as much as anything, but it is also an indicator the players are willing to line up behind Fehr.