TORONTO -- Donald Fehr didn't confirm or deny his potential interest in taking the vacant executive director's position with the NHL Players' Association, saying only that he hasn't been offered the position.
The longtime head of the baseball players' union spoke for a couple hours at the NHL's annual agents meeting Thursday.
"When I [left the MLBPA], I had no intention of looking for another full-time position ... if there's a change in my view I don't think that'll be a secret to anybody," Fehr said. "Having said that, I've had an opportunity to meet and talk to and work with a number of [NHL] players. ... I must say that I find them to be quite remarkable individuals. They're bright, they care, they want to try and do the right thing. I really enjoy it."
Fehr has been working as an unpaid consultant for the NHLPA, assisting the union while it rewrites its constitution and tries to rebuild in the wake of a massive leadership purge. He also is assisting with the leadership search and has arguably emerged as the strongest candidate.
"You don't run an association like the Major League Baseball Players' Association as long as he has without being substantive, powerful, politically correct, reasoned and very intelligent," said Pat Morris of Newport Sports. "He displayed all elements today."
A number of NHLers have recently thrown their support behind Fehr and a couple high-profile agents spoke highly of him.
"He's got 25 years of experience in protecting the players in baseball," said J.P. Barry of CAA Sports. "There's a lot of analogies between baseball and hockey."
The NHLPA went through an extremely turbulent time in the wake of Paul Kelly's firing in August. Several top executives followed him out the door and the union has been left to rebuild itself.
"There's a bunch of work to do," Fehr said. "Having said that, this is not like starting from scratch. This is not an organization that does not have very significant strengths. It is an organization that has, I believe, a membership that is ready and willing and interested in making things right so that it's an effective voice for the players."
The league's collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in 2011, although the players are likely to exercise a one-year extension that will see it end in September 2012. Fehr only has a cursory understanding of the current CBA.
"I do have a knowledge of how, in a very general sense, of how some of the key provisions work," he said. "If you ask me, 'Do [I] have a detailed knowledge yet?' The answer is no. I have never had to do that. And in the process of doing what I'm doing with the constitution and search committees, it's important in a general sense to get an idea of what the issues are that the players are concerned about.
"That's not the same thing as analyzing agreements and making bargaining opinions."