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This is a Feb. 27, 2008 file photo showing Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr appearing on Capitol Hill in Washington before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on drug use in sports. The ball is clearly in Fehr's court.A number of NHL players threw their support behind Fehr on the eve of meetings for the NHLPA's executive board. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Dennis Cook

Dennis Cook

It apparently took a great deal of convincing, but Donald Fehr is on the verge of taking over the troubled NHL Players' Association.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Fehr has been recommended by the NHLPA's search committee as the union's next executive director. The PA's top job has been vacant since Paul Kelly was fired in August of 2009 after less than two years in the position.

Fehr previously served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association for more than 20 years before stepping down late last year. He has been working as an unpaid advisor to the NHLPA for much of the past year helping to rewrite the organization's constitution.

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His appointment will go to a vote of the NHL's 30 player representatives before he is officially given the role, a process that may not be completed until after the 2010-11 season begins but which is believed to be a formality.

Fehr, 62, has been widely heralded by many on the union side as the top candidate for the role but was also reluctant to take on a job that will involve nearly two years of difficult labour negotiations leading up to the fall of 2012.

Recent speculation had suggested he would only join the PA as an advisor who could groom the organization's next executive director, but it is believed he has agreed to fill the top role at least until the latest collective bargaining agreement negotiations are complete.

In Toronto this week attending the world hockey summit, Fehr was not available for comment on Wednesday but spoke at length to media in March after meeting with NHL player agents.

"There's a bunch of work to do," he said of the union at the time. "Having said that, this is not like starting from scratch. This is not an organization that does not have very significant strengths. It is an organization that has, I believe, a membership that is ready and willing and interested in making things right so that it's an effective voice for the players."

Fehr added that he saw parallels between his work with baseball players and what was needed at the NHLPA.

"All I can tell you is that, in my experience, one of the reasons the baseball players' association has been effective is that it's a unified whole," he said. "And one of the tasks of this organization is to make sure the hockey union functions that way, too."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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