nhl- Agents and the NHL
The article, which was written just before the BOG meeting on Wednesday, is about how agents use their influence to help shape new labor agreements for different leagues, but I am only going to give you some information regarding the agents involved with the NHLPA.
- In the current NHL lockout, communication between agents and management has raised some eyebrows. In an example of agents working to help their union, sources said a group of hockey player agents, representing eight major sports agencies, are in discussions to form an alternative league to compete with any NHL plan to use replacement players.“We are not going to sit around and have no alternative for our players to play,” said one person familiar with the agents’ effort.
There has been some recent optimism that a deal could be struck to end the NHL lockout. But if there is no deal, the agent-organized league could go head-to-head against a league effort to use replacement players.
The agencies involved, including IMG, Octagon and Newport Sports, are acting at the behest of the NHLPA. The agent-planned league will go forward if the NHL declares an impasse, implements a new economic system and tries to lure NHL players back under the new rules.
- In the last few months, agents may have taken the initiative in labor talks in the NHL lockout, as well. Last month, NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow told agents at a meeting in Toronto that certain agents had damaged the collective-bargaining process by striking up talks with NHL owners. Prominent agents were said to be involved in a plan to save the season right after it was canceled by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Goodenow did not name the agents who he said injected themselves into the negotiations, but said they did not show up at that March 2 meeting.
Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney who has represented a number of sports unions and currently represents the NBPA and the NFL Players Association, said, “If the NHL agents are acting on their own, in my view they are acting in a way that is inconsistent with their roles as agents.”
- Starting in March 2004, NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly sent 20 to 30 major NHL player agents copies of a financial report prepared for the league by former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt. The report claimed that player costs were not in line with sound business practices. Some agents, who said Daly included a personal note with the report, saw it as an effort to go around the union.
Then in November, numerous hockey agents received, from an anonymous sender, an internal NHL memo that criticized the union’s message to players. NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin accused the NHL of sending the letter, which was delivered in a plain manila envelope with no return address, but an NHL spokeswoman denied that the league sent it.
Just a few weeks ago, some agents received a copy of a letter from Daly to the NHLPA stating that the union’s threat to decertify agents who represent replacement players violated the National Labor Relations Act and the NHL’s expired CBA.
J.P. Barry, an agent who is co-director of IMG Hockey and a former NHLPA lawyer, said that the NHL’s communication with agents appears to be part of the “massive public relations campaign that the league has conducted throughout these negotiations” and “another effort to manipulate all the related constituencies.” Communication between agents and management during the lockout is counterproductive, Barry said.