NHL’s Fehr-bashing tactics boost player resolve: Phillips

Players watched with dismay last week as the NHL continued its strategy of demonizing NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.

Players watched with dismay last week as the NHL continued its strategy of demonizing NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.

They knew that was going to be one of the league’s tactics going into this negotiation, so they weren’t surprised when a group of owners tried to get a group of players to sign a deal without Fehr in the negotiating room, suggesting it would be a “deal breaker” to invite him back in.

All it did for the NHL, however, was galvanize the resolve of the players, even as games through Dec. 30 were cancelled on Monday, making it a total of 526 cancelled so far.

Isn’t it time the NHL stopped focusing on Fehr and started to think about negotiating, asked Ottawa Senator defenceman Chris Phillips, who is also the team’s NHLPA representative.

“It just makes me question why (they) are wasting their time worrying about who’s in the room and who’s not in the room,” he said Monday, after a practice with the Carleton Ravens.

“They should be putting a little more energy into getting a deal done,” he continued. “We’ve negotiated in good faith. We’re trying to get something done. We want to play.”

“But it seems we have to put up with a lot of this nonsense, which has nothing to do with trying to get a deal done.”

Senators defenceman Marc Methot said it’s a frustrating time for everyone, but the players have faith in Fehr.

“We just have to stay strong right now, but we have all the trust in the world in Don,” he said. “We know he’s doing a great job.”

While joking darkly that this will “be the first Christmas I’ve had with some days off I guess since the last lockout,” Phillips said he remained optimistic that at least a partial season will be played.

It is, however, getting perilously close to the drop-dead date, after which it won’t make sense to offer fans such a truncated schedule.

“I thought we were really close to a deal,” said Phillips.

“To have it break off the way it did was unfortunate, but hopefully we can still get it back on track here.”

As much as the players would like to bring the game back to its fans, however, they can’t cave in and accept whatever the owners offer. This negotiation is about their livelihood.

“We just can’t take what’s on the table and run with it,” said Methot.

“Sure, there might be some guys who are on the fence. But I think for the most part, as a collective group, we’re all standing by Don, and I have all the confidence in the world in him.”

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