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Dreger Report: Flames' mandate on equipment a CBA violation?

Darren Dreger

11/5/2013 6:55:38 PM

The NHLPA says the Calgary Flames cannot mandate its players wear protective foot and ankle equipment commonly known as "shotblockers."

Flames general manager Jay Feaster instructed his players get fitted for the guards after Calgary captain Mark Giordano suffered a broken ankle and veteran forward Lee Stempniak broke his foot after being hit by pucks last month.

Flames players have informed the Players Association they were strongly encouraged by Flames management to wear the shotblockers, but were told the equipment wasn't mandatory. 

However, Feaster says this is a mandatory team policy which may create a problem as such a policy could be viewed as a CBA violation.

(CBA 30.3 Amendments -- The NHL and its Clubs shall not, during the term of this Agreement or any extension thereof, amend or modify the provisions (or portions thereof) of the League Rules or any of the League's Playing Rules in existence on the date of this Agreement that affect any terms or conditions of employment of any Player, without the prior written consent of the NHLPA which shall not be unreasonably withheld. The NHL shall furnish proposed amendments to and/or modifications of League Rules that affect any terms or conditions of employment of any Player upon the NHLPA's written request.)

"No team can unilaterally make a piece of equipment mandatory," Mathieu Schneider, Special Assistant to NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr, told the Dreger Report.

Equipment discussions and proposed changes are expected to funnel through the newly-formed equipment sub-committee before moving on to the joint competition committee and, ultimately, to the board for final approval.

All Flames players are complying with management's policy and are currently wearing some form of additional foot protection.

The NHLPA intends on reaching out to the NHL to discuss its concerns with Calgary's approach.

While very sensitive to why the Flames are doing what they are doing, Schneider worries about "knee-jerk" reactions by NHL clubs and the potential for unintended consequence, such as another injury if teams are allowed to armor their players without going through the appropriate procedural steps.

Schneider points toward the ongoing work being done between the league and PA on potential changes to shoulder pads as an example of how thorough the process of full-scale equipment changes has to be.

Years ago, players opted for a much larger shoulder pad for added protection. Now, the focus is on developing a smaller and less damaging shoulder pad, in hindsight, correcting an issue that was created by good intentions and in the spirit of safety.