- Associated Press - Saturday, December 18, 2010

TORONTO (AP) - Don Fehr became the new executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association on Saturday after union members voted overwhelmingly to accept the executive board’s endorsement.

The 62-year-old Fehr is the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. He held that post from 1983 until 2009.

Fehr, who was serving as an unpaid NHLPA consultant, will start in his new position immediately.

The collective bargaining agreement between the union and league is set to expire in September 2012.

Fehr’s appointment was hardly a surprise considering he had gained the board’s support.

But it came after a search committee recommended Fehr to the executive board, which then put it to a full vote of the union membership.

“This process took a while, and it took a while because from the players’ standpoint they wanted to be sure,” Fehr said during a conference call. “I wanted them to be sure they had made a decision they were comfortable with, that all the players had an opportunity to have their say and that this judgment represented a consensus view of the entire membership.

“It has, and that’s both quite an honor to me and is also quite humbling.”

Fehr, who said he grew up watching some hockey and considers himself a fan, plans to immediately meet with players while becoming acclimated with the details of the collective bargaining agreement, revenue sharing and the economics of the game.

“Those are the three main pieces you have to have in order to do the kind of analysis that it will take to prepare for collective bargaining,” he said. “What goes right along with this is educating the membership at the same time as I educate myself as to what those issues are, what’s important about them, how various things affect the players and then additionally what changes in the agreement _ either that we might propose or that the commissioner’s office might propose _ could affect them.

“Then to work with the players to identify individuals who are willing to and whom the rest of the players would like to serve on their negotiating committees moving forward. That’s an awful lot of work.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was happy that the union found a new boss.

“We are pleased that the leadership position at the players' association has been filled, and we look forward to working with Don in his new role,” Bettman said in a statement.

Michael Weiner, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said Fehr’s experience in baseball will serve him well in his new post.

“We congratulate Don and the NHLPA, and we wish them well in all future collective bargaining matters,” Weiner said in a release. “Don’s experience with the MLBPA will surely benefit hockey players going forward.

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