NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr accepted an invitation to attend the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Council on Saturday, December 8th in Toronto, and delivered a speech that gave the more than 800 delegates in the room a rare look into the ongoing negotiations between the NHLPA and NHL.
Fehr opened by sharing that when he accepted the CAW’s invitation to speak, that he had high hopes of delivering his speech after reaching an agreement with the NHL. While that didn’t prove to be the case, he stressed that the only way to reach an agreement and end the lockout, is to keep working at the bargaining process until the two sides find a way through their issues.
Though the owners’ lockout has entered its 86th day, Fehr took the opportunity to express his confidence in the NHLPA and its membership, reaffirming that player solidarity is strong. When Fehr came out of retirement to accept the position of Executive Director of the NHLPA, it was the players who convinced him to do so. They made it clear they wanted his help in re-shaping their Association, transforming it into an organization that represents them in all facets of their careers. Their dedication to taking a stand will not fade.
Fehr spoke about his admiration for the players, that they possess a work ethic “almost not to be believed.” He explained that while certain players have an abundance of talent that would naturally take them to the top, the majority of players have to “out work, out hustle, and out think the opposition” to make it into a workforce that offers them little job security. For that reason, Fehr and all NHLPA staff are so committed to supporting the players and keeping them as informed and involved as possible in their Association. The key to accomplishing that is consistent, open communication and open invitations for any player to participate in meetings, calls and attend bargaining sessions.
In his speech, Fehr also outlined the history of the often difficult relationship between the NHL and the NHLPA. He explained the development of events that has led to the third NHL-imposed lockout in 20 years. While Fehr didn’t comment on specific issues pertaining to current CBA negotiations, he did reveal that it seems the lockouts would have occurred regardless of the league’s economic circumstances. In essence, it appears that these lockouts are done as strategy, and not out of necessity, as the owners would have the fans believe.
Free agent defenseman Chris Campoli, a player who has been heavily involved in CBA talks since they began this summer, was in attendance at the CAW Council, accompanying Fehr on behalf of the NHLPA. He spoke to media after Fehr’s speech, and touched on his confidence in Fehr and the NHLPA’s leadership.
“He’s our guy, he’s our leader and we believe in him. There’s not going to be a deal without him.” - Chris Campoli
The CAW Council brings together elected delegates from across Canada to explore, debate, and vote on critical labour, economic, and political issues that affect its members throughout the nation.