As reported yesterday afternoon, new NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was in town to meet with a small group of agents.
We heard Fehr’s thought on the discussions in an exclusive interview here.
Below, Scott Norton (Norton Sports Management), who reps the Kings’ Dustin Brown, provides detailed commentary on the overall meeting, the major issue debated and even weighs in on the Dustin Brown trade rumors that have been popping up again.
MM: The bulk of the morning was spent on Donald Fehr updating the group on his background and experience. Given his very public role as the head of the Major League Baseball PA for over 30 years, did you learned anything new?
SN: I think, just new in terms of not knowing that much about his background. You know what you read and about the public persona. But, some of the in-depth and some of the way we’re filling out the rest of the NHLPA board and the people they’re bringing in, their experiences that will help move things forward with the CBA.
MM: How will the new NHLPA be different than what it has been over recently?
SN: I think it’s going to be more solidified. I think Donald’s going to be a great leader. I think people know from what we’ve gone through the past few years – hopefully some of the people aren’t going to have their own agendas, that they’ve had in the past. I think the players are solidified and it’s nice they get to take it backseat and watch the NFL and NBA go through what they’re going to be going through.
MM: Knowing that you were going to be attending the meetings, did any of your players have specific questions they asked you to raise?
SN: Not really. Most of them are still pretty busy with their seasons. That’s really the only thing they’re focused on. The great thing about hockey players is that their number one, two and three concerns – are on the ice. I think in the past that’s been taken as weakness by the owners. But, I think moving forward that’s going to be taken as a strength and they’re going to look at their team as 720 players that are all together.
MM: What about you, what was your biggest question heading into the meetings?
SN: I just sort of want to see where Donald’s picture of where we’re going to be in a couple of years is and sort of compare that to some of the other leagues, especially baseball that he’s worked with. I think I’ve gotten somewhat of an idea now. I think it’s a different take this year because we have split up into smaller groups. There’s a lot more give and take with the agents than usually when they just have everybody sitting in a classroom in Toronto. It’s much more personal and you’re really getting to know the people a lot better.
MM: What do you think will be some of the key points when the PA eventually gets to the negotiating table with the NHL?
SN: It always comes down to money. Whatever way you want to phrase it – cap, no cap, guaranteed contracts, non-guaranteed contracts, length, ratio – it all comes down to money. The owners are going to want to make sure they have a big enough share of the pot and the players and agents want to make sure they have a big enough (piece). So, that’s the bulk of it. No matter what sport or how we paint it, it comes down to money.
MM: The second half of the meeting was largely spent on head shot and concussions. What were some of the key points and/or questions?
SN: Basically, and I think Donald did this at the other meetings too, I think he wanted to get a sense from the agents of their feelings on the phenomenon of concussions and injuries, how to solve it, if there is a way to solve it, etc. We had Darcy Tucker and Mathieu Schneider both in the room, which I think helped out. It was great to get the perspective of two players, especially one who played on the edge like Darcy did. So, it certainly was a spirited conversation. I think different agents certainly had different view points. I think Donald, he’s a very smart guy and he’d be the first one to tell you that hockey is not his forte. So, in areas like that, he wants to hear from so-called hockey people. There was a lot of going back and forth regarding rules that can be put it, the equipment, what we have to deal with in terms of age, meaning where players are bigger, faster, stronger, that type of thing. There really wasn’t a unanimous ‘this is what we want to do going forward.’ It’s in the discussion phase. And obviously, a large part of this also going forward is the league’s side of things.
MM: Given that Fehr isn’t a hockey guy, what type of questions were being asked?
SN: Where do the injuries come from, what do you think can solve it. There was some discussion on the touch icing. There was discussion of the advent of clutch and grab coming out of the lockout and how that’s actually picked up the pace, which has made the impacts a lot better. Those types of things. Most of us (agents) have played at some level, whether it was college or junior or pick-up. So, I think he was trying to see where we, as well as our clients feel on these issues.
MM: What were the next steps on head shots?
SN: Information gathering. Opinion gathering. The whole tone of the whole meeting was this was the first time we got to meet Donald in an official setting. So, it was more about discussions and open conversations. It was probably more productive than anything we’ve done in the past under any other regime. I think some of that was the smaller, quaint ability to discuss (things), as opposed to how they usually used to do it – where you being all 200 agents into Toronto and you sit there and listen to the PA talk to you. Donald really wanted open conversation from each and every one.
MM: Unrelated, but timely nonetheless, how about the Dustin Brown rumors? It’s silly season again with the trade deadline coming up on Monday. In your opinion, what’s the likelihood he gets traded?
SN: I think the likelihood is zero. Not because I can’t believe – look, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded. But, I think if you look at Dean’s history though and how this organization is being built – people always refer to Dean’s comment on the Joe Thornton trade and that Boston got the best of the deal. That just gives you an idea on his mindset, that you don’t trade blockbuster stars because it’s very difficult to do. We’re talking about a guy who’s sitting under media scrutiny because he won’t make a small deal. Do we really think he’s going to do a blockbuster that involves not only one of his best players, but the team captain, the guy with the most longevity on the team and in some ways the face of the organization right now? Again, from a realistic standpoint, sure he could get traded tomorrow. But, from the way the Kings are building and Dean Lombardi wants to build his team, I would say it’s zero.
To read the interview with Donald Fehr click here.
I’ll have more later with Pat Brisson (Anze Kopitar’s agent) and Mathieu Schneider, the newly hired Special Assistant to Fehr.
Interview with Scott Norton 6/28/2010 – talking being an agent & his relationship w/ Dustin Brown
Interview with Scott Norton 6/25/2010 – regarding the entire NHL Draft process