U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will become the new executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
Walsh, 55, succeeds Donald Fehr, who led the NHLPA from 2010 and negotiated on the players’ behalf through two collective bargaining agreements with NHL owners. The formal announcement of Walsh’s hiring is expected to come in the days following President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, according to an NHLPA source.
Walsh was named “designated survivor” for Tuesday’s speech, watching it from an undisclosed location. The idea is to preserve the government’s line of succession in case of an attack or another incident at the Capitol where the president, vice president, speaker of the House and the rest of Biden’s Cabinet were gathered.
Before joining the Biden administration, Walsh had a labor background, having led the Building and Construction Trades Council in Boston. He served two terms as Boston mayor from 2014-2021. Walsh has been a Boston Bruins season-ticket holder and is a long-time hockey fan.
The NHLPA formally began its search for Fehr’s replacement in April 2022 with a seven-player committee. The committee eventually enlisted the help of the executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
Among the candidates for the position were former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis; Mathieu Schneider, a former NHL defenseman and currently the assistant to the executive director under Fehr; and player agent Allan Walsh.
Marty Walsh was a late entry into the process. Sources told ESPN that there was an appetite from the players to have someone who hadn’t been involved in hockey labor talks to bring fresh eyes to the landscape.
“The players did not want anybody with a history in the industry or with any preconceived notions about [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman,” said one players’ source.
At Saturday’s NHL All-Star Game in Florida, Bettman said commenting on Walsh would be “inappropriate” given that he had yet to be announced as the new NHLPA boss.
“The fact of the matter is that we’re very respectful of what the players are doing. They’re going to conduct the process as they see fit. Whoever it is, we’ll work with,” said Bettman, who said he had met Walsh on a few occasions when he was the mayor of Boston.
While Walsh doesn’t have ties to the hockey labor movement, he does have ties to NHL ownership. Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs donated to Walsh’s mayoral campaigns and held a fundraiser at TD Garden, which the Jacobs family owns. The Boston Globe reported in 2017 that the Jacobses made their “largest ever political contribution to a candidate in Massachusetts” when it donated $13,000 to Walsh.
Jeremy Jacobs is the chairman of the NHL’s board of governors, made up of the league’s 32 teams.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.