A war of words between National Hockey League Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr and former consultant Richard Rodier has escalated to the point that Rodier has accused Fehr of making it a priority to have a “harmonious” relationship with the NHL at the expense of the league’s players.
On Tuesday, Rodier emailed NHLPA staff, NHL player agents, and players who are team union reps to say that agents have a fiduciary duty to inform their clients that he has discovered instances where NHL teams are allegedly underreporting revenue.
On Wednesday morning, Fehr addressed the claims made by Rodier, a Toronto lawyer who was fired by the union in 2015.
“Suffice it to say that we disagree with nearly everything he wrote,” Fehr wrote in an email to player agents. “We will not here discuss those disagreements, but it is important to note that this matter has been an ongoing issue. It has been discussed with the Players, including at length at the Executive Board meeting last May, and with individual players (and agents) who have inquired.”
Under the NHL and NHLPA’s labour agreement, players receive 50 per cent of the league’s overall revenue, known as hockey-related revenue (HRR). Rodier wrote in his Tuesday email that if the union pursued his potential claims, which he said are worth about $400 million (US), players’ escrow deductions might be cut by 25 per cent to 35 per cent.
Fehr wrote that Rodier “clearly wishes to leave the impression that he is irreplaceable” and that since Rodier’s departure, the union has “enhanced our efforts by working with a sophisticated forensic accounting firm, Renaissance Associates, as well as outside legal counsel where appropriate, to diligently audit teams and pursue all avenues of potential HRR.”
Fehr also wrote that the union’s efforts have “resulted in many claims and settlements” and that Rodier has had no involvement in that process for more than 18 months.
After Fehr's email, Rodier emailed player agents again on Wednesday, charging that Fehr once told him in a meeting at the NHLPA that $150,000 per year loss of escrow for a player making $3 million was “insignificant relative to how he planned to grow revenue through international hockey.”
“As such he would temper any HRR claims in favour of the harmonious relations he felt he needed with the NHL,” Rodier wrote. “That is a very hefty price to pay, and I am under the impression that was never discussed with the players or player reps.”
The NHLPA refused comment on Rodier’s Wednesday email.
Rodier, who once worked alongside BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie in his failed attempt to buy several NHL teams, specializes in scrutinizing income statements and balance sheets. He began working for the NHLPA in 2011 and was fired in 2015.