Fehr Blindsided Us All

Nobody saw this coming.

Certainly not the gloom and doom crowd, and not the nay-sayers, predicting a lockout when the NHLPA hired it’s current boss.

The moment Donald Fehr was brought into the Player’s Association, a lockout looked all but certain to most fans. But even the optimists like myself had no idea what was coming: a sweeping proposal that could change hockey’s financial system, and save many of the smaller market and struggling teams, while still giving back some concessions to the owners.

This is something that is going to take some time to digest, both for the fans and for the owners. Or at least, the owners should take some serious time to crunch these numbers. If they don’t, they will lose standing in the court of public opinion. Or to put it another way, if a player has a really bad playoff run, you might want to announce having an injury, even if you didn’t really have one. It just looks better. After the players looked and looked and questioned the ridiculous (albeit necessary) attempt to roll the clock back to the last lockout, if the owners take anything short of a half week to debate and look at this, or if they decide to dismiss it without exploring and question, they will look like knee-jerk fools who can’t see past their own egos.

We can now erase Bob Goodenow from the history books. The tactics displayed by the Executive Directors are worlds apart, and Donald Fehr seems to come out on top in the brains department. Goodenow dug his heals in to a loosing battle, thinking he could out-wait the owners, while Fehr hit them where it hurts: in reality.

Do I think the owners will accept being told by a bunch of players how to run their businesses? No, like the owner of a pizza chain doesn’t care what the dishwasher has to say about the company and how it should be run. But there are other examples of this in the world, most notably in Japan, where corporate success is a point of pride. The owners would do well to pay attention to the players here. It’s easy to forget that they see the inner-workings of the hockey business world in ways we only wish we could. They shouldn’t be discounted.

Finally, while this proposal may look attractive to the smaller market teams, how about to the potential owners of teams that could be or are being sold? Would you be less or more inclined to buy the Phoenix Coyotes if this deal (or some other modification of it) were put in place? Would you look at the financial stability of a team that was on shaky footing and see this deal as something that could help you in the long term?

We don’t have enough details about the proposal the NHLPA put forth, but we can say this for certain: there was more care put into the deal than anyone expected. Now we wait.

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