Penguins Notebook: Players praise Fehr's appointment
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A couple of union-savvy Penguins praised the appointment of Donald Fehr as executive director of the NHL Players Association. Fehr long held the same job with the baseball players' union from 1983-2009.
The NHL collective bargaining agreement expires in September 2012.
"I think he can bring some stability to the next two years," team union representative Max Talbot said Sunday. "He's one of the most experienced guys with any union, and he did a great job with baseball."
Former player rep Matt Cooke has been an advocate of Fehr's for some time. Fehr had been a volunteer consultant with the NHLPA, which has had four leaders since the end of the 2004-05 NHL lockout. He was appointed to his new post Saturday.
"We used him as a crutch to lean on for opinions," Cooke said. "He was in transition with consulting with MLB, and at the time I asked him if he wanted to apply for our job because I was so impressed with the way that he spoke, the way that he talked about Major League Baseball, the player union.
"I think it's an exciting time for our [union] because by bringing in a guy like that, it gives us instant credibility, especially at a time when we've gone through such struggles."
Fehr was a hard-line negotiator in dealings with Major League Baseball, which did not have a World Series during the 1994-95 work stoppage. In interviews, he dismissed the notion that he is joining the NHLPA with the intent of forcing a hockey shutdown.
"He wants to get things done the right way, and I don't think it's about having a lockout or a strike," Talbot said. "He's a smart man. His role in the union is going to be to unify us so we can be on the same page and keep playing."
Still, Cooke said Fehr is someone who will have the players' backs. "No one knows where it's going to go," Cooke said. "A lot of times, there's so much positioning within collective bargaining agreements or negotiations. I think that Don has enough experience at that that this one's not going to be a learning curve for him. He's prepared, and he understands the game."
Penguins top-line left winger Chris Kunitz, who has missed two games because of an undisclosed injury, made it through an hour-long practice at Consol Energy Center and seems probable for tonight's home game against Phoenix.
"It's nice to be back practicing with the teammates after a few days off," Kunitz said. "I felt good out there. I didn't have any problems. It's something we have to still watch day to day, but I plan on playing."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is hopeful that evaluations this week of center Jordan Staal's surgically repaired broken right hand will provide a time line for when he can resume practicing with his teammates.
Declining to label Staal's situation as a setback, Bylsma said Staal "continues to work both out on and off the ice at times."
He said Staal's hand is healing but that things have stretched beyond the initial six-week projection for him to return to the lineup because the bone that was broken is in a critical spot and there is concern about re-injury.
Once Staal gets back into practice, he won't be as behind as he was when he was coming back from a foot infection earlier in the season, but he will still need some time.
"Skating-wise, with gear, in practice, with competition, that's something he hasn't seen. ... He's in pretty good shape right now. Certainly not in playing shape, but in pretty good shape," Bylsma said.
The Coyotes will be without franchise goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov tonight. He was sent back to Phoenix for evaluation of an undisclosed injury. Jason LaBarbera is expected to start and Matt Climie has been called up from the American Hockey League to serve as backup. LaBarbera is 0-2 lifetime against the Penguins.
First Published December 20, 2010 12:00 am