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Donald Fehr, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has been working as an unpaid consultant for the NHLPA. ((Mario Tama/Getty Images) )

The NHL Players' Association has hired Donald Fehr, the longtime head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, as its new executive director, the Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday.

Citing sources, the Sports Business Journal said other candidates have been told they are no longer in the running for the job, vacant since last October, when the NHLPA parted ways with Ian Penny two months after he succeeded the fired Paul Kelly.

The sources also noted the NHLPA's search committee's decision to bring Fehr aboard would still have to be confirmed by the entire board of player representatives.

"This is not an organization that does not have very significant strengths," Fehr, 61, said in March. "It is an organization that has, I believe, a membership that is ready and willing and interested in making things right so that it's an effective voice for the players."

Past NHLPA bosses

  • Alan Eagleson (1967-1991)
  • Bob Goodenow (1991-2005)
  • Ted Saskin (2005-2007)
  • Paul Kelly (2007-2009)
  • Ian Penny (2009-2009)

The Sports Business Journal's attempts to confirm the appointment with Fehr were unsuccessful.

The NHLPA declined to comment on the report.

"Throughout the entire search process, the NHLPA search committee has operated in a confidential manner and will continue to do so until their work is complete," NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement.

Another report Wednesday evening suggested Fehr would only be in the position on an interim basis, perhaps for 12 to 18 months.

Two months ago, the NHLPA decided to extend the current collective bargaining agreement through the 2011-12 season.

The NHLPA's relationship with Fehr dates back to last November, when he was hired as an unpaid consultant to help the union rewrite its constitution.

Fehr, one of the most respected and accomplished labour leaders in professional sports, had the support of numerous NHL players and agents.

"He's got 25 years of experience in protecting the players in baseball," agent J.P. Barry said earlier this year. "There's a lot of analogies between baseball and hockey."

"I could see him come in and hire two or three guys under him and mentor one of them to eventually take over," added another agent. "I believe it would be a popular decision among us [agents]."

Player agent Pat Brisson said the NHLPA needs someone who understands the landscape, what needs to get done and someone who can advise in the correct way.

"We need someone who has a great vision, just like any other business," he said.

The New York Post reported in March that Detroit Red Wings defenceman Brian Rafalski wrote a memorandum to the other 29 player reps to quickly proceed and offer the executive director's job to Fehr.

Fehr was named executive director of the MLB Players Association in 1983 and retired this past March.

He oversaw five labour contracts for the players and was in charge during a seven-plus month strike in 1994-95 that forced the cancellation of the World Series.

The average baseball player's salary was $289,000 US in 1983 and $2.9 million as of 2008.