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NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr, center, is joined by Winnipeg Jets' Ron Hainsey as he speaks to reporters, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr, center, is joined by Winnipeg Jets' Ron Hainsey as he speaks to reporters, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Q&A WITH DONALD FEHR

Donald Fehr: The players' defender Add to ...

Q: My Globe and Mail colleague David Shoalts wrote recently that a soft cap and luxury tax could get a deal done. Would you go for that? Do you think it would work?

A: We’d certainly be open to talking about something like that. So far, at least, there has been zero interest in discussing anything except an absolutely hard cap on the other side. It’s just a question from the owners position what the numbers would be. I think it’s something we’d be prepared to talk about if they were, but I want to caution you: It has not come up yet and I have no reason to believe the owners are interested in it. But anything which puts more pieces in play conceivably gives you more things to work with in attempting to construct an agreement. My personal interest is for something simpler rather than more complex but that pushes you in the direction of no cap, and that’s not a direction, as of yet, the players are prepared to go.

Q: A lot of people thought your initial proposal would be no cap …

A: When they say that, they think negotiations are about personal wants or desires or my own view about what a perfectly ordered world would look like, or the views of anybody sitting in my chair. We discussed all possibilities with the players, and the players said if we can make an agreement that we can live with and help stabilize the sport – that’s what the revenue sharing is all about – and get us out of this cycle without going backward, we’d like to try to do that. If we can’t, and it becomes clear after time that it becomes clear that we can’t, I don’t know that those instructions would hold.

Q: How do you respond to owners’ criticism that you delayed negotiations, and that a lot of stuff should have been done before we got to this point?

A: Spin. Does anybody think that our problem negotiating is that we haven’t talked enough? Or that you can’t run a calculation and figure out what a 171/2-per-cent reduction on the players’ share would be? Or that take less and not more is a difficult concept to understand? Or that free agency has to be 10 years in the league rather than it is now or salary arbitration … you know, this doesn’t take a lot of discussion. There may be a lot of issues. That’s not one of them.

Q: Why not just go to a 50/50 split and be done with it? Would that get a deal done?

A: It wouldn’t get it done in the immediate term, because it’s a 12 1/2 -per-cent pay cut. We have told the owners that the players were willing to – if we got revenue sharing and other stuff – have a fixed dollar amount share for two or three years which would have the effect of having it fall toward 50 and consider things past that.

Q: People have said that the players appear much more disciplined this time around …

A: Players are vastly more informed and aware that owners and their representatives will look for any confirmation of what they want to believe, which is that players are ready to give them back hundreds of millions of dollars and that it’s just this recalcitrant staff that doesn’t want them to. You have to be careful about sending that kind of message if you don’t want it believed. We went through it in 1981 in baseball. There was a reporter who got hold of some Los Angeles Dodgers players, working out on a University of California-Riverside Field – this was pre-internet, much less Twitter - and said to them: ‘You know, what are you guys doing out here and would you like to be playing?’ What they said was: ‘Of course we’d like to be playing, but we won’t come back unless there’s a fair and equitable deal.’ That last half didn’t get reported, and the baseball owners shut down negotiations. A strike that should have ended in 41 or 42 days ended in 50. So you acquaint players with that. Having said that … one of the things we wonder is that if you have to have a rule like the owners do, where if you say anything that isn’t approved, you can be fined an enormous amount of money? That raises two questions: When in the world did we get to the point of regulating free speech in America again? And secondly, what is it we’re afraid they’re going to say?

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