Search for NHLPA head close to end

Updated: August 26, 2010, 5:21 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

TORONTO -- The long search for a new leader of the National Hockey League Players' Association is drawing to a close.

New Jersey Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner, a member of the search committee, said Wednesday it is expected to recommend a candidate to the membership "in the next week or so."

He said it likely will take until Nov. 1 to formally install the new executive director.

Former Major League Baseball union leader Donald Fehr, who always has been considered a strong candidate, already has agreed to take the job, and other candidates have been informed they're no longer under consideration, Sports Business Daily reported early Thursday, citing multiple sources.

Sports Business Daily reported it was unable to immediately confirm that with Fehr or the NHLPA.

Fehr has been a consultant for the NHLPA, helping the union rewrite its constitution, among other things. He is in attendance at this week's World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

Fehr, 61, was head of the MLB players union from 1983 to 2009, and was considered a hard-line negotiator. Any recommendation by the search committee would need to be approved in a vote by the union's 30 player reps.

"Throughout the entire search process, the NHLPA Search Committee has operated in a confidential manner and will continue to do so until their work is complete," NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon said in an e-mail to ESPN.com Wednesday.

Langenbrunner, who is also at the summit, said he is looking forward to the hiring of a new leader, a post that has been empty for the past year following the dismissal of former executive director Paul Kelly.

Langenbrunner said the league has taken advantage of the union's leadership vacuum on a number of fronts, including the recent rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's free-agent contract with the Devils.

"They're [the league] throwing a few hammers out here because of the situation the PA has been in in the last year. The lack of a head and a lot of the staff gone, they see a little bit of a wounded animal and they're taking advantage of that, I do believe," Langenbrunner said. "We're moving forward in the right direction. Hopefully, the new head will get us pointed back in the right direction and back to where we should be."

Langenbrunner said he's spoken to Kovalchuk and is confident a contract will get done and the winger will be back with the Devils.

"It's unfortunate that it has taken the turns it has. For us, we're excited if we can get him signed. It was great getting him on our team, he's a great player. If they can get something worked, that's great for us," Langenbrunner said.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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