Amidst the misery of the Coronavirus pandemic and the NHL Pause, harmony between the NHL and NHLPA appears to be rising from the ashes as the league pushes toward an NHL Return.
Are Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and Donald Fehr actually getting along or has Fehr delegated much of his workload with the NHL Return To Play Committee to his Special Assistant Mathieu Schneider, general counsel Don Zavelo and divisional representative Steve Webb?
“I think it’s a bit of that and the fact that both sides know how much is at stake financially for all parties involved and they really don’t want to let grudges get in the way,” a well-placed league source told Boston Hockey Now Sunday afternoon. “I will say this though, I think both Gary and Don have let Bill, ‘Schneides’, Zavelo and Webb do a lot of the talking with the players involved (John Tavares, Mark Scheifele and Connor McDavid) then given their yay or nay.”
One news item that may have had all those that read it wondering if hell had frozen over but thanks to all the news leading into the NHLPA approving the 24-team NHL Return To Play playoff proposal Friday night, fell under the radar this past week was the NHL Commissioner actually praising the NHLPA. From Ken Campbell of the Hockey News:
“There was one nugget that emerged from Monday’s call, and it is not insignificant. In fact, it’s fairly huge. Bettman said on the call, as he has on others, that the NHL Players’ Association is working hand-in-hand with the league, “and he said it’s the best he’s seen in his career,” said a person who was on the call.”
A pandemic and Bettman crediting the NHLPA? Yes, the devil is freaking freezing these days!
For the last two weeks, though, Steve Simmons has hinted that it’s not exactly Fehr biting his tongue and doing his part to help all involved navigate through these unprecedented times. According to the longtime Toronto Sun scribe, that theory has gotten a mixed reaction from NHL agents who are very much involved in the NHL Return To Play talks as well. From Simmons’ latest Sunday column:
“A different hockey agent took offence at my characterization of Donald Fehr last Sunday as the absentee head of the NHL Players’ Association. “No one in the hockey industry has been busier since the shutdown,” the agent wrote me. “We are all fortunate to have Don Fehr and his extensive experience, wisdom, and intellect working every day for the players.” Two other agents, equally prominent, wrote emails agreeing with what I wrote”
The same source above did confirm that Fehr has been “lurking” and not indirectly involved but could not confirm why.
“I’m not going to go there right now; I’m just happy we have everyone working together right now because we literally are all in this together!” the source said.