JLHL NHL player Donald Fehr “Proud” for NHL players to speak up

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Don Fehr did not attend his university degree.The shooting in Kent State – where Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students peacefully protesting the Vietnam War – took place about a week before he graduated from Indiana University in the spring of 1970.

“I’m a child of the 60s,” said Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players ‘Association. “I am a child of the civil rights movement. I am a child of the Vietnam War protests. ”

Ongoing protests in the United States and around the world against police violence following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis officer knocked his knee for nearly nine minutes , echo these turbulent times.

“These are questions that have always been important and fundamental and around which you must progress,” said Fehr in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. “The hope is that somehow the current state of events will translate into this kind of progress and significant progress will be made. ”

Historically, those who do not speak out on any issue – let alone racism or social justice – a number of NHL players have added their voices to the call for change.

More than 100 posted information about the protests on social media, including Evander Kane and P.K. Subban, who are black, and some of the other big names in the game, like Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, which are white. Some, like Blake wheeler and Braden Holtby, conducted sincere interviews, while Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin joined peaceful marches.

Fehr, who turns 72 next month, said it was up to individuals to decide what to post, share or contribute. But he is encouraged by what he has seen.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” he said. “They understand that this is an important moment. They understand what the problems are, at least in their broad scope. And they make their voices heard. Not everyone, but a lot.

“And it’s to their credit. ”

With the crucial warning that the NHL is resuming its season far below the list of problems in a world stopped for the first time by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and now grappling with mass protests demanding change, Fehr remains cautiously optimistic, the league will be able to complete the 2019-20 campaign.

The NHL is set to begin phase 2 of its overall return to play protocol on Monday, when team facilities are allowed to open and players can skate and train in small voluntary groups – while observing a list laundry with strict health and safety guidelines.

The league and the NHLPA, which must also agree on a new collective agreement or an extension of the current agreement before September 2022, hope to open training camps sometime after July 10, which would be phase 3, before to resume the season with phase 4 later in the month or at the beginning of August.

The NHL has released a 24-team format that is likely to see the Stanley Cup in the fall, but everything from testing to safety to the venue is yet to be negotiated.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” said Fehr. “The phase 3 and 4 protocols, like phase 2, require a lot of detail, but they also involve more people in the same area more frequently, so you need to pay a lot more attention to it.

“We both have public health doctors and our own doctors on staff, and they will tell us when we go astray. ”

Fehr said his members, who have remained mostly scattered across North America and Europe since the March 12 season break, have a lot of questions.

“They want to make sure they understand what the plan is and why it is so,” he said. “They want to be assured that not only have every effort been made to keep them safe, but they do not want to inadvertently bring something back to their families.

“And they want to make sure they have enough time to come back, train, prepare so that when the match starts, leading to the eventual awarding of the Cup, there will be real matches that will be as intense as you want. ”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has described the relationship between the league and players during the pandemic as “collaborative” on more than one occasion, but Fehr prefers not to use this adjective.

“What I can say is this: we are faced with a common problem, which arose entirely outside of the ordinary employer-union relationship, and we cannot solve it by ourselves,” he said. -he declares. “There are things we don’t know, and there are things we can’t know about the future. ”

The main unknown is whether the government and health officials will even allow hockey to resume this summer as part of the NHL plan to host teams in two still unknown key cities without supporters.

“There is … a common recognition that we are dealing with something completely unusual, and we have to find a way to do it,” said Fehr. “It was not something we caused. It’s not something the NHL caused. It is not something that started as a fight for the economy or that will probably end there, although the adverse economic consequences of the pandemic will clearly have to be taken into account. ”

And it could be huge.

“If we can’t finish this season, there will be a big hit on revenue,” said Fehr. “It wouldn’t be good at all, but the health and safety of everyone involved … is priority one, two and three, and everything else follows.

“Anyway – a potential loss this year, a potential loss next year, if for some reason we can’t play before the full arena – we just have to deal with it.

“And it’s not going to be pretty. ”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 7, 2020.

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