After years of chaos and conspiracy straight from the marble halls of the Roman Empire, the Executive Committee of the National Hockey League Players Association has apparently endorsed a reworked constitution. As with most matters involving its internal workings, the NHLPA has issued no formal statement regarding its proposed new operating rules. Still, some points are leaking out.
It appears that the old document (we use the word "old" in a relative sense, given that the PA reworked its constitution only three years ago) was consigned to the shredder. The new one will return power to the office of the executive director. This will likely lead to a rubber stamp approval from the rank and file (assuming enough of them make the effort to vote). This is surely a good thing.
When you are dealing with the NHL, particularly Commissioner
After Goodenow resigned in July 2005, the players fell to bickering among themselves, opening deep wounds that still haven't completely healed. They set about revising their constitution to purportedly give themselves more power, but in essence they only opened avenues for more bickering and the kind of behavior one usually reserves for a knife fight.
The "new old" constitution also made it possible for the PA's next leader,
The players now claim they are moving forward even if their latest constitution appears to be a "back to the future" production. The union, or at least those who are charged with making the good-faith effort to fix it, wants a strong document that gives authority to the executive director. This is being done in a variety of ways, including abolishing a number of committees formed under the old document with the idea of keeping the director in check. There are reports that that the union's lead attorney will no longer be outside his control. That move is apparently designed to insure there will be no repeat of general counsel
In a quick aside, the Executive Committee this week addressed Kelly's ouster at a two-day meeting in Toronto and formally acknowledged that he was essentially railroaded out of office by treatment that was, in essence, unconscionable.
Charming stuff. But enough of the past.
All of the constitutional changes should enable the next executive director to go to the bargaining table with at least the appearance of the players being unified behind one leader who has the power to act on their behalf. That would be a major change from the last time around when divisions in the ranks led Bettman and Daly to realize that Goodenow didn't have the full support he needed to outlast the league's threats of a lengthy lockout. That realization helped Bettman dig in and bet that his hardline stance would lead to Goodenow's demise.
Bettman was right.
It's difficult to predict who the next NHLPA executive director will be. The committee members seem to want former Major League Baseball players union boss
Fehr is 61 and has indicated that he has the drive for one more go-round with a sports entity. However, there is never a guarantee with this group and there are other candidates.
Those who want to go outside the speculative list might center on attorney
Given that Fehr isn't the long-term solution and Goodenow likely wouldn't come back even if asked, some long-range planning to go with short-term need is in order. It's a real possibility that Fehr will accept the role of negotiator for the next CBA while training his long-term replacement. That would give the PA an experienced hand to help rebuild its fractured membership, restore a workable constitution, and begin the necessary planning for what should be a very difficult negotiation with a league that likely will want to lower its hard-won salary cap by shrinking player salaries.
Just who might be at the table on the players' behalf remains to be seen, of course, but reworking the constitution and acknowledging failure in dealing with Paul Kelly are promising steps.
It's also nice to see that the knives are being sheathed.