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NHLPA President Marty Walsh sets higher priorities in a new position

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TORONTO — Marty Walsh was less than two months away from his eighth birthday.

He should have been playing outside with friends. Instead, the young man spent the winter of 1975 in hospital battling cancer.

But one day a special visitor appeared.

Walsh remembers Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr on Thursday. “I was fortunate enough to meet Bobby Orr and get an autograph.

“Just wonderful.”

Nearly 50 years later, Walsh is now enjoying one of hockey’s best careers after taking over as CEO of the NHL Players Association.

His first order of business after being formally named Donald Fehr’s successor last month was to meet the members — and learn about their priorities and interests.

“They deserve a leader who knows who they are,” the former US Secretary of Labor in President Joe Biden’s administration said Thursday during his inaugural news conference. “It’s really about understanding and getting to know each other.

I am a different kind of leader. »

Walsh, who also served as mayor of Boston from 2014 to 2021, grew up in a family with strong union ties. His father and uncle were both members, which led him to research the importance of group representation.

“I was lucky enough to set my stomach on fire,” he said. “This is how I was as a person… I haven’t really forgotten where I came from.”

Walsh joins the NHLPA at a time when league revenue is expected to approach $6 billion, and as talks for a new collective bargaining agreement close, with the current deal expiring in 2026.

“The players asked me a lot about my style,” Walsh said of the interview process with the selection committee. “What I really focused on was making sure I was understood and getting to know the members.

“It’s not that I see them once a year and talk to them.”

Set to turn 56 next month, he recently met NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“We’ll have a great relationship as long as Commissioner Batman agrees to everything I say,” Walsh joked before getting serious. “As long as you respect each other, there will be plenty of opportunity here for progress.”

“We are in the same boat. But I represent the players.”

He added that he has a good relationship with the Jacobs family, who own the Bruins and donated to his political campaigns.

“It’s one thing to support my campaign,” Walsh said. “Using this as a way to take advantage of me will never happen.”

Fehr’s tenure saw NHL players compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics before the league reached an agreement in 2018. Plans for the 2022 games were canceled due to COVID-19, but there is a commitment to go there in 2026.

The NHL also initially hoped to revive the World Cup of Hockey, but the plan was delayed until at least 2025 due to Russia’s international ban due to the war in Ukraine.

“It’s too early to tell who was involved,” Walsh said. “But I think we have to put heroism on paper and start the conversation about what it’s going to look like.”

The league and union negotiated completion of the 2019-20 season during the pandemic, which included a long-term extension of the CBA.

Walsh said it was too early to go into detail about the NHL’s economic system, which has included a strict salary cap since the 2004-05 lockout.

“We are talking about contract negotiations after two and a half years,” he said. “I have to take the time to have the opportunity to talk to the players more about what they want to see from me and what they expect from us when we go to the negotiating table.”

Bettman recently suggested that the salary cap could exceed the projected $1 million increase to $83.5 million in 2023-24 as players continue to make payments to owners through escrow — the system that guarantees a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue.

“When I was asked if I would be interested in seeing the cap go up, my answer was ‘yes,’” Walsh said.

Walsh has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community throughout his political career, and Walsh was also asked about the small group of players who refused to wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys in the league this season.

“Everyone has the right to make their own personal decision,” he said. “But on the other hand, I think we have to make sure that people understand that hockey is an all-encompassing game.

“Everyone is welcome.”

The new president of AJLNH distinguished himself from the previous leadership of the union on numerous occasions on Thursday.

Most of them arrived with legal training.

Walsh comes from somewhere else.

He said “world of work”. “I was a union leader and I am a member of a union. My journey has been a bit different. I have lawyers around me to help me with the legal cases we need, but I think when it comes to representing people, it is about representing them first, not the law.”

“I think it gives me a different uniqueness.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 30, 2023.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

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