The biggest news coming out of the World Hockey Summit on Wednesday wasn't even part of the Summit agenda.
According to reports late Wednesday night, the former head of Major League Baseball's Players Association, Donald Fehr, has agreed to accept the position as executive director of the NHL Players' Association, pending a vote of the PA's 30 player reps.
Fehr has been playing more than footsy with the PA, going back to even before former exec director Paul Kelly was given the punt in a palace coup at three in the morning at a Chicago hotel last August, so the hiring would not come as a huge surprise.
And once again, the pendulum has swung back from the middle ground of a Paul Kelly (whose philosophies nestled nicely between the "take-no-prisoners" attitude of Bob Goodenow to the "take-whatever-you-need" vibe of Ted Saskin) to more of a hardliner in Fehr.
It should come to nobody's surprise that both Fehr and Goodenow have a relationship that stretches back many years and are both cut from the same "scrap over every issue" cloth.
The timing is interesting, on the heels of a major Players' Association loss at the gavel of arbitrator Richard Bloch, who ruled Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils a circumvention of the salary cap and the further disclosure that the NHL is investigating other deals of a similar variety.
Many within the PA feel this was the league flexing its muscles at a time when the players were without any sort of leadership to mount any substantial challenge.
Make no mistake, these are fights that Fehr craves and thrives on.
And as we've seen the NHL start to publicly choose the hills it is prepared to die on leading up to the expiry of the collective bargaining agreement in two years, expect the PA to start drawing some lines as well.
Some observations from Day 3 of the World Hockey Summit:
I still feel the Players' Association is playing the participation at the Olympics situation all wrong while the league is painting a Picasso over the issue. While once again players like Daniel Alfredsson and Jamie Langenbrunner opine about how terrific an experience the Games were and how players want to go and should be able to go, the league is playing coy on the issue.
Citing the lack of broadcast deals in place for the Games, the absence of an agreement with the PA, the NHL is, in effect, holding something back from the players that everyone in the hockey world expects they will surrender at the last minute but not before negotiating concessions from the players in exchange for letting them go work for free for two weeks.
If I'm part of the Players' Association, I don't give any indication that the 2014 Games are something that I crave. Rather, I play it like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman does and maintain the party line that this is an issue that has to be collectively bargained.
Alfredsson did make the point today that he feels player participation at the Olympics shouldn't have to be a bargained issue.
Interesting point by Detroit general manager Ken Holland, who said of the 30 governors, 10 are in favour of going to Russia, 10 are against and 10 are undecided. Holland personally believes the NHL belongs in the Olympics. Most GMs feel this way, too.
Question: For all the talk from NHL executives and general managers about how it's not fair that the players are not compensated for playing in the Olympics, have you heard one single player say he'd like to be paid?
At the Bettman question and answer session, I asked the commissioner whether he considered the Cristobal Huet transfer to a Swiss club — and the subsequent eradication of his near $6 million US cap hit from the books — to be a circumvention of the salary cap? To which Bettman responded that this is not circumvention but rather "cap maintenance" which every team has the right to do.
Bettman added these types of transfers are something that should be looked at closer. I'm not sure I buy this line of logic. Wasn't New Jersey simply exercising "cap management" when putting together a very creative contract for Kovalchuk?
Bettman called the Olympics a "mixed bag" for the NHL, sometimes it's great (Salt Lake City and Vancouver) and sometimes not so great (Nagano and Torino).
And while he wouldn't get into specifics about what he didn't like in particular about the Vancouver Games, he did cite a situation where Detroit owner Mike Ilitch wasn't allowed into a dressing room to meet with one of his Red Wings players. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel called this an oversight and a mistake but also something that could get worked out very easily.
When asked about last week's NHL Research and Development camp, Bettman said he liked the hybrid icing rule, extended overtime and the thicker blue-lines. He added the camp was important for trying new ideas and concepts, even "absurd ones."
He didn't like two-on-two overtime because there is no real game simulation of that event and supported the shootout due to the presence of penalty shots in the game.
That is a rationale I strongly fall onside with in the defence of the shootout. As long as penalty shots are part of the game, hockey will never be a 100 per cent pure team sport.
Good to see support for going to the small NHL-style ice surface from both Fasel and Alfredsson. Both said it produced a more exciting game, full of energy, scoring chances and excitement.
Alfredsson had the funniest moment of the Summit on Wednesday. Talking about Sweden's loss at the hands of Belarus in 2002, he said he was glad he didn't have to go back to his home country because "we got carved" for losing that game.