NHLPA votes to start search for Fehr’s successor

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

The NHL Players’ Association announced on Friday night that it has formed a search committee to find the successor to executive director Don Fehr.

The NHLPA executive board held a conference call on Monday, and the players voted through the week on whether to begin the process of replacing Fehr. The 73-year-old joined the NHLPA in December 2010 and negotiated collective bargaining agreements in 2013 and 2020.

Fehr will continue to lead the NHLPA until his successor is found.

The NHLPA search committee’s initial members are Ian Cole (Carolina Hurricanes), Justin Faulk (St. Louis Blues), Sam Gagner (Detroit Red Wings), Zach Hyman (Edmonton Oilers), Kyle Okposo (Buffalo Sabres), Nate Schmidt (Winnipeg Jets) and Kevin Shattenkirk (Anaheim Ducks). Other members might be named in the future.

The committee will begin the process of finding candidates and will give a progress report to the board at its meeting in Toronto on July 18-20.

Said the selection committee in a statement:

“The many players who have played in the NHL over the last eleven years greatly appreciate the significant accomplishments under the leadership of Don Fehr. Don joined the NHLPA after a long and successful career as Executive Director of the MLBPA and quickly stabilized the union following a very difficult period. He led the NHLPA through the owners’ 2012-13 lockout and negotiated a new CBA that created a defined benefit pension plan which will greatly benefit players for generations to come. Don played an important role in reviving the World Cup of Hockey in 2016.

“After Covid-19 forced the suspension of the 2019-20 season, Don led the bargaining that resulted in an extension of the CBA in July 2020 and allowed for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to be played. We look forward to continuing to work with Don as we go through the succession process.”

Sources tell ESPN that the timing of this decision is unrelated to the independently commissioned investigation into Fehr’s handling of Kyle Beach’s allegations of sexual assault against Chicago Blackhawks then-video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. That report released on April 15 found issues of miscommunication and misunderstanding of the process in handling such allegations, but found no “individual wrongdoing or institutional failures of policy or procedure” by Fehr himself.

One source said the process to find Fehr’s successor started in the fall of 2021, when Fehr began discussing a succession plan with the players. However, another source said the search committee was formed because there had yet to be a formal plan enacted by Fehr to find his successor.

The current CBA runs through the 2025-26 season, giving whoever succeeds Fehr plenty of runway before that next labor showdown with the NHL owners. But in the short term, the next NHLPA executive director will be tasked with negotiations surrounding the World Cup of Hockey, which is expected to return in February 2024.

Among the candidates likely to be considered to succeed Fehr are Mathieu Schneider, a former NHL defenseman and currently the assistant to the executive director under Fehr; Glenn Healy, a former NHL goaltender who heads the NHL Alumni Association and was previously director of player affairs under former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly; former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, who has been doing consulting work with the NHLPA; and player agents Ian Pulver and Allan Walsh.

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