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Fehr and Bettman Provide Stability in Uncertain Times

There’s no bigger name regarding union negotiations than current NHLPA Executive Director, Donald Fehr. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s good at his job, yes there’s always stoppages in every sport, but in the end, he knows how to get the most for his player.

“We are living through difficult, uncertain times. Nobody knows what the future would bring. This wasn’t normal collective bargaining. Health and safety is the paramount concern for everybody,” Fehr stated. Negotiations aren’t worth very much if the other side doesn’t go along with it. A lot of people will find faults with it. It’s not a perfect agreement. I think it meets the challenge. I think there’s a lot in this agreement the players can be proud of.”

On the flip side, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman knows what the owners want. He works for them, but he’s been keenly aware of player needs, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the two have worked seamlessly together to come out of this with a possible end to the 2019-20 season and a four-year extension to ensure labor peace.

“Safety is paramount. This puts us in the best possible place we can be in during Covid-19 and try and complete the season,” Bettman said, regarding the hub cities and return to play. That (CBA negotiation) was not purely about returning to play. We are going to do the very best we can. We understand there are risks. The task of bringing 24 clubs together, in two hubs, playing three games a day, this is not the beginning or the end. This is the end of the beginning.”

In the last part of the quote, NHL commissioner riffed off something Winston Churchill once said.

Gary Bettman was clear about the testing and no player names will be made public regarding Covid-19.

“We are getting testing from commercial sources and we are paying for them and not taking them away from people who need them (he cited the hub cities they’re in have lesser needs than other places), that’s important to us. We will be discreet about how injuries are disclosed.”

Las Vegas was removed as a hub city in favor of Toronto and Edmonton. The reason wasn’t surprising.

“From the start, we had clear and transparent conversations in Vegas and that was true to the end. We understand some of the advantages and create the bubble tighter than some other locations but the fact that Covid-19 was spiking outside it was a concern to us,” said Bettman.

The cap remains the same, but the treatment of revenue is different than the last CBA.

“The cap treatment is the same,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly.

“We agreed on how it will be set for all six years. The inflator from the previous agreement will not apply,” Bettman added.

Fehr then added an interesting nugget.

“The cap will be $81.5 million and rise slowly as revenue comes back until we hit $4.8 billion until we hit a lag system.”

In 2018-19 the revenue in the NHL was $5.09 billion dollars.

Fehr was as open as I’ve heard him about this process. For a few moments, he made you think this may have been one of his greatest milestones, ratifying a new agreement, something no other sport was able to do during the pandemic.

“I got a better night’s sleep. We have the framework for how we will execute it. It’s been a long, long, grind. We tried to structure something everyone could live with over time. If revenue is less, revenue is less. It’s over time hoping we are in the best possible position to get back to normal as quickly as possible. We’re all living day-to-day here.”

Mathieu Schneider is the Special Assistant to Fehr, and he joked about one item regarding the bubble the players will be in.

“It’s like going to Mars. Nobody’s ever been there.”

This was a joint production from start to finish

Check out my new hockey book Sticks and Stones here:

https://www.amazon.com/Sticks-Stones-College-Hockey-Prepares/dp/1628657227/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Russ+Cohen&qid=1586180720&sr=8-3.

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