Ference lauds "real leadership" in NHLPA


Ference lauds "real leadership" in NHLPA

With the new NHL CBA expected to pass with flying colors on Saturday morning after all of the votes are tabulated, a signed memorandum of understanding should be quick to follow. That will usher in the opening of NHL training camps all across North America to be followed by the beginning of the 2013 NHL regular season a week later.

Apologies have flooded in from NHL owners and players alike along with the rare personal message of regret from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, but there is much less regret coming from the players side of the aisle.

The NHL players were locked out from playing, after all, and received the best deal possible in January after listening to exactly what NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr predicted would happen. Thats why Bettman made several references to the strength of the union in announcing that the Board of Governors had passed a unanimous vote approving the CBA.

Without a strong union and involvement from the players youre not going to have guaranteed contracts, youre not going to have pensions and youre not going to have any of the benefits they currently have. Its essential for the players to have all those things, said Ference.

Ive been involved with the union for a number of years and every conference call seeing the ins and outs. Its one thing to give your opinions on calls and its something else to being there in the room when its being discussed.

Its perhaps a little extra justification for a guy like Ference, who was part of an influential group of NHLPA members that pushed Paul Kelly out of the door as Executive Director. The players basically begged Fehr to then come take over the players union as they sensed a battle would be on their hands, and Ference joined the player chorus shuddering at what might have happened over the last six months without their NHLPA leader.

I think there are a couple of writers here in Boston that were in love with our last director in Kelly and think that I am the devil, admitted Ference. But I think that is so far from the truth. We are in so far better a position now as a union. The strength Fehr, his brother and everybody from the lawyers to the economist, the unity and belief that all of the guys had in them was unbelievable.

It was really impressive to see the transformation all the way from the last lockout with different people taking over the helm and constantly being disappointed, and issues arising with each and every one of them. They were issues that really yanked the union apart. To finally have some stability and some real leadership in a guy that could come in and do a really time-crunched job of getting to know everybody and unifying everybody in a tough situation is awesome. Everybody in the locker room and everybody in the meetings will tell you the exact same thing.

What would happen if the old NHLPA leadership was still in charge?

Im sure wed already have been playing, said Ference. Im sure we wouldnt have missed as much hockey and Im sure the league would have been salivating about it. Thats the blunt answer, for sure.

Instead the players held for their best deal possible while still handing the owners many of the things they coveted in a new CBA, and they did it while still leaving room for a 48-game schedule that should win back those on-the-fence hockey fans.

That is also called the best possible resolution of the hot mess that the NHL CBA had devolved into.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins


Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.