Marty Walsh’s lifelong passion for hockey rivals his professional dedication to the labor cause.
His next job might merge both interests, with multiple reports emerging Wednesday that the former Boston Mayor and current US Secretary of Labor is a front-runner to become the next executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association.
The NHLPA announced last April that it would form a search committee to replace Donald Fehr, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association who assumed the same role at the NHLPA in December of 2010.
“The Search Committee has been actively interviewing potential candidates and remains engaged in the process of selecting a new NHLPA Executive Director. While the process is getting closer to completion, we are unable to comment further at this time,” according to an NHLPA spokesperson who was asked specifically for a comment regarding Walsh as a candidate.
Eighteen of the 32-member players’ executive board would have to vote for Walsh in order for him to become the next executive director. A full-membership vote from players is not required. No date has been set on when any vote will take place, although the NHLPA will be holding a meeting this weekend during the All-Star festivities.
TSN, Politico, and ESPN reported sources confirmed the union’s interest in Walsh’s candidacy.
Late Wednesday afternoon, in response to the TSN tweet about the Walsh candidacy, former Bruins forward Brian Lawton tweeted: “Very Interesting. Probably correct but many other rumors circulating that they may be leaning towards hiring the first woman to be the NHLPA Executive Director.”
Fehr is 74 years old. His salary at the NHLPA is believed to be at least $3.5 million annually.
Walsh, 55, makes a $235,600 salary as Secretary of Labor, according to the US Office of Personnel Management records.
Walsh was making $207,000 annually as Mayor of Boston.
As Labor Secretary, Walsh injected himself into last year’s MLB labor dispute, making phone calls to both the owners and players union urging them to return to the table after the owners locked out the players.
Before entering the political realm first as a state representative in 1997 and then Mayor in 2014, Walsh was heavily involved in labor, eventually serving as the head of the Boston Building Trades Council.
President Joe Biden selected Walsh as his Secretary of Labor, with the US Senate confirming his appointment by a 68–29 vote in March of 2021.
Walsh’s ties to hockey run deep.
Walsh was 7 years old in June of 1975 and the first of his four hospitalizations at Children’s Hospital for cancer was just about over when the Bruins’ Bobby Orr visited the ward.
As Orr stepped off the elevator, Walsh was too in awe to speak. Orr gave him a signed photograph, which still sits in Walsh’s Dorchester house.
Hockey was Walsh’s first sport love and he had season tickets with the Bruins at the age of 21. As mayor, he said he spent some of his down time in the evenings watching hockey with his NHL package.
The Bruins also mark a personal nadir for Walsh.
Walsh is an alcoholic, and the road to his discovering his disease began on Sunday April 23, 1995, at a Bruins-Rangers game at the Garden.
Walsh had been drinking all weekend, he said in a Globe interview in 2017, and “I was asked to leave the Bruins game because I was so drunk. I went across the street to the Harp and started drinking. I fell asleep there, and my friends had to come take me out.”
The afternoon led to counseling and eventually inpatient treatment, with Walsh open to this day about his struggles with alcohol addiction.
As Mayor, Walsh had two unsuccessful forays into sports, hitching his wagon to both the city’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid and its efforts to hold an IndyCar race in the Seaport. The NHLPA’s current collective bargaining agreement does not expire until after the 2024-25 season.
If he were to get the NHLPA job, Walsh would be the second Massachusetts politician in recent months to jump into the sports space. Charlie Baker, former governor of Massachusetts, was named the next president of the NCAA in December.
— Kevin Paul Dupont, Matt Porter, and Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.