While the seasons of many NHL clubs end tonight, the work for the NHLPA is just beginning. The Players’ Association has announced that their Executive Board has voted to form a search committee to begin the process of finding a new executive director of their union. The union released a statement to go along with their announcement:
The many players who have played in the NHL over the last eleven years greatly appreciate the significant accomplishments under the leadership of Don Fehr. Don joined the NHLPA after a long and successful career as Executive Director of the MLBPA and quickly stabilized the union following a very difficult period. He led the NHLPA through the owners’ 2012-13 lockout and negotiated a new CBA that created a defined benefit pension plan which will greatly benefit players for generations to come. Don played an important role in reviving the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. After Covid-19 forced the suspension of the 2019-20 season, Don led the bargaining that resulted in an extension of the CBA in July 2020 and allowed for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to be played. We look forward to continuing to work with Don as we go through the succession process.
While this news comes at an unexpected time, it is not entirely out of the blue. Fehr’s future was already under scrutiny, with Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff previously reporting that there was a level of discontentment regarding Fehr’s leadership that could necessitate a change. The timeline of this move is a bit shocking, though, as many believed the process would be left for the summer, including TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
But as is made obvious by this announcement, the NHLPA decided now was the time to make a change. While Fehr’s role may not put him into the attention of most NHL fans, his job is one of major importance. As the leader of the NHLPA, he is the highest-level executive who represents the players as a whole, and he leads their charge in any contentious labor negotiations with the league. There will undoubtedly be many who will vie for this coveted position, and who the players choose could signal the direction they go in their future negotiations with the league. The NHL has been lucky to avoid a lockout similar to the one Major League Baseball faced this winter, so perhaps one major priority for the players will be finding a candidate who can maintain labor peace, but of course, only time will tell.