NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr joined Gord Stellick on Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the upcoming NHL labour negotiations and whether or not the issue of player suspensions will play a role in bargaining talks.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires after this season and, with the current NBA lockout, labour talks are a hot topic within the league.
Fehr says there is no need to think about a work stoppage just because the current agreement expires soon.
"I am sure that everyone's watching what happened in football and particularly what's happening in basketball at the moment and I certainly understand why. I'll just remind everyone that isn't the only negotiation going on. There's also a baseball negotiation without those kinds of threats being made by either side," Fehr said.
Before becoming executive director of the NHLPA, Fehr was the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association from 1986 to 2009.
Fehr agreed that, in a sense, the MLB has become the model for these types of labour negotiations, but he stressed that baseball is unique in that it does not have a salary cap.
Suspensions as modified contracts
Currently discussions within the NHLPA are more preparatory than anything, and Fehr says the role specific issues — such as player suspensions — will play has yet to be determined. However, there is no question that suspensions have garnered significant attention already.
"Basically, you have a situation in which where you have discipline involved it's a modification of a player's contract. You don't get to work and you don't get to get paid ...
"Normally when someone wants to modify your contract you have resort to some sort of impartial mechanism to decide if that guy is right. If somebody wants to throw you out of your apartment, you can contest it. If you get a parking ticket, you can contest it. And it's not the same person who levies the penalty who gets to decide whether you're right and it's not somebody with whom he works, that gets to decide if you're right. So that's an issue.
Fehr did not draw a direct line between the summer's tragic deaths to this season's slew of suspensions, but he did say that the events of the past several months raise issues that need to be examined.
"Whenever you have a tragic incident of one death, much less three, it ought to compel you to take another look at what you're doing and try and determine if everything that can reasonably be done is being done," he said.
Labour negotiations will most likely begin sometime around this year's all-star game, leaving several months for both sides to come to a new agreement.