NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr Attends CAW Council
December 8, 2012, 4:00 PM EST
The solution to the extended lock-out by NHL owners is to keep working at the bargaining process to "hopefully find a way through the thicket of issues," NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr told CAW Council delegates.
Fehr outlined the difficult history of contract talks between the 750 member players of the National Hockey League Players Association and NHL owners, including three lock-outs over the last 20 years.
He said these lock outs have come no matter what economic circumstance the league is in and the fact there is no outsourcing problem, because there is no other major professional hockey league in North America these players could move to.
Fehr said when he came out of retirement to take the job as executive director of the NHLPA, the players made it clear they wanted to rebuild the Players Association and support it as an organization of which they can be proud.
Fehr said it's critical to trust the membership, tell them the truth and involve them in the bargaining process.
While there are a handful of athletes at this level with such high skills and talent they would get to the top anyway, the vast majority have to work incredibly hard for many years in an environment that provides little job security in the traditional sense.
"They get there because they have a work ethic almost not to be believed," Fehr said. These players must out work, out hussle and out think the opposition, Fehr said.
To move the Players' Association ahead, the key is to support these members who work so hard and the NHLPA, as a result, is committed to regular communication with its members and allowing players to attend any of its bargaining meetings.
CAW President Ken Lewenza introduced Fehr and Montreal Canadiens player Chris Campoli as well as several NHLPA staff to delegates, who provided several standing ovations.
Lewenza urged NHL owners to recognize the impact of the lock-out on the players, their families, small businesses dependent on the NHL, as well as the millions of hockey fans in Canada and the United States including adoring minor hockey players who look up to NHL players as heroes.
He asked the owners to bring the pride of hockey back to Canada and to treat the players with respect. Lewenza said in many ways the dispute between players and the NHL is similar to other labour struggles like the lock-out at Caterpillar in London or the recent strike at Wescast auto parts.
"The bosses think they have it all their way," Lewenza said. "Players are being treated with disrespect." He said one step is to respect the elected leadership of the players. He reminded delegates the players are people who have sacrificed enormous time and injuries to themselves just to do their jobs.
He said these professional players have the same anxieties as other workers and just want to go to work.
"I want to say to Canadians today we must rally around these players, they have the right to bargain," Lewenza said. He said in Canada these hockey players are often the pride of the nation.
"I have never walked into an NHL arena and ran over to the owner's box to look at the owner," Lewenza said to loud applause.