There were no bomshells dropped by NHLPA head Donald Fehr when he spoke Saturday to a meeting of the Canadian Auto Workers at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. He's not resigning, the union likely isn't decertifying. It seems to be the hope -- maybe against hope -- that negotiation will eventually work.
"I had hoped when this invitation came and even earlier this week to be in a position to tell you that we had successfully concluded an agreement and that the lockout was over,' Fehr said. "As you know, I can't do that. I can't tell you when it's going to end. I can tell you that the only way it ends is to keep at the process and hope that eventually we are able to find a way through the thicket of issues that are there."
There are currently no new sessions scheduled and the league is likely to whack the rest of December games as soon as Monday. Fehr, as you would expect, questioned the wisdom of the NHL -- and all sports -- using lockouts as a negotiating tactics.
"This happens in an industry which does not face the kind of competitive pressure that employers talk about in bargaining in many other industries," Fehr said. "There is no other major hockey league in North America. There is no outsourcing problem. We can't move the plant to Bangladesh. But it doesn't seem to matter. And it doesn't seem to matter what the economic circumstances of the league is."
Fehr said he was proud to help rebuild the NHLPA and to foster participation from its roughly 750 members (the union, remember, completely broke down under Bob Goodenow during the '04-05 lockout).
"I learned a long, long time ago from [late baseball players head] Marvin Miller that in the end if you really don't have any idea what to recommend or none of the choices are good, or none of the options appear to be tremendously better than the others, that what you do is trust your membership," Fehr said. "They'll tell you what the right thing to do is."
(At this point, you have to wonder what the players would tell Fehr to do if things were put to a vote. I don't see, for example, the likes of Matt Ellis or Cody McCormick having to worry about whether they could sign a five- or seven-year deal.)
Said Fehr in his closing remarks, "If anybody has a brilliant idea about how to solve the lockout, don't keep it to yourself. ... My own hope and, far more importantly the hope of the players, that we'll find a way to get through this and get the guys back on the ice much sooner rather than later."
Go to this link for John Vogl's story from Page A-1 of today's paper recounting an exchange of texts and emails he had with Ryan Miller on the negotiations.
CBC's Elliotte Friedman has a conversation with Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey, who is being described as the NHLPA's "bad cop." Hainsey admits he's pondered the thought that no NHL team will offer him a contract next year when his contract runs out as a means of retribution for his union activities.
Hainsey is in the Miller zone for having well-spoken perspectives on league issues. We had a long chat with him last season in First Niagara Center about NHL realignment, when news broke the Jets were going to remain in the Eastern Conference again this season, and he was hugely impressive.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price, speaking Saturday to Montreal Gazette writer Dave Stubbs about whether there will be a season: "There's got to be. We've got to. Why wouldn't we? [NHL hockey] was growing so much, it was at an all-time high. If we don't play this year, it's going to hurt everybody."