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TORONTO -- The NHL Players' Association had hoped to have a new leader by now -- and for that leader's name to be Donald Fehr -- but there was no announcement Wednesday at the end of its executive board meetings.
As it turns out, the NHLPA committee searching for a new executive director still has some work to do.
"We got an update from the search committee. They've been doing a lot of work and they're going to continue to do that," Calgary Flames player representative Robyn Regehr told a small gaggle of media at a downtown hotel. "They do have a number of candidates whittled down to a manageable number, and I think they are going to continue to do interviews."
The initial belief among union circles was the new leader would be ready to take over after this week's executive board (player rep) meetings. Not so.
So when will the NHLPA have a new leader?
"The time frame is hopefully in time for this fall, for training camps," Regehr said. "Because the new person, whoever that is, is going to have a very heavy travel schedule to go around and to visit each and every player and each and every team. Originally, we wanted to do that in the summertime, but because of some different things the search committee is talking about and the people that they're talking with, they're going to take a little bit more time."
The delay is partly because the search committee, composed of Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rafalski, Brian Rolston and Mathieu Schneider, is not only talking to candidates other than Fehr but also debating different leadership scenarios. And that's what is really interesting here.
While no one would say so Wednesday, one assumes the committee's debate is whether Fehr should be the executive director for a short stint with the purpose of grooming his successor or if he simply stays on as an adviser to the new executive director. In other words, what role do they find for Fehr and would he accept it?
"[The committee is] not just dealing with different candidates right now; they're also dealing with maybe some different structures, so that's why I think things have taken a little bit longer than what we were hoping for," Regehr said. "In dealing with those different scenarios, they've had to talk to the candidates about whether they're comfortable with those different scenarios. So I think that's a big reason we've had a little bit of a delay here."
Two of the other candidates believed to be in the mix are New York labor lawyer David Feher and Doug Allen, the former assistant executive director at the NFLPA. But there may be others as well.
Even though Fehr has long been reported to be in the mix, he would not officially name himself as a candidate for the NHLPA executive director's job when asked about it Wednesday.
"I'm officially a candidate? No, I'm officially not anything but an unpaid adviser to the search committee, and that's about all I can say about that," Fehr said.
He didn't want to say he was a candidate, but Regehr did.
"Don doesn't have a title to him whatsoever right now, but he is a candidate in the search," Regehr said. " I know that, in originally talking to Don, I think he wasn't even interested in the position, and for whatever reason he's changed his stance now."
Whether Fehr is the next NHLPA executive director or merely stays on as the next leader's adviser, it's clear he has the NHL players' backing.
"If you just look at Don's credentials, it's hard to not want somebody with his expertise be involved," said blueliner Steve Mondator, the alternate player rep for the Buffalo Sabres. "Having said that, the amount of time and expertise that he's giving to us already, we're extremely grateful for that as is. And if we were to leave tomorrow, we'd still be in debt for his contributions so far. It would be great to have him involved in some way, but we're not able to say anything along those lines, whether or not he will [stay on] beyond his current advisory position."
The executive board did vote in favor of the new constitution Wednesday. That is no small achievement since the new leader will want to know what he's walking into. Former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly was hampered by a constitution that crippled his power.
"We voted as an executive board on the new constitution," Regehr said. "There were some recommendations made to us by the constitutional committee, and as an executive board, we agreed to those. What's going to happen now is that it has to be passed along to the entire membership and it has to be ratified. We need two-thirds to agree and that way it gets ratified."
Fehr, meanwhile, also addressed the executive board. His message dealt mostly with collective bargaining and what to prepare for in general terms. The current CBA expires in two years.
"Two years is not tomorrow, but it's not all that long either, especially if part of the task is to have extensive communication with the general membership," Fehr said. "So you get ready. There is a simple rule about bargaining you hope for the best, you do what you can, treat the possibility of a work stoppage as a last resort and you prepare for the worst."
"Mostly for me, it was a lot of learning and trying to understand about the union and how I can get more involved," Tavares said. "Obviously, this is an important part of the game. It's important to be involved and not just worry about playing."