Inside the ‘Secretive’ Talks That Led to Labor Sec. Marty Walsh Leading the NHL Players Association

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters
Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will leave his Cabinet position after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union and become head of the NHL Players Association.

That news was reported Tuesday afternoon by Politico, but The Daily Beast can report that Walsh has been involved in secretive deliberations for some time—and the move is not without consternation from some NHL players and agents.

One active professional hockey player described the move to The Daily Beast as “a little janky.” Another league insider said the deal was understood to have been wrapped up Monday night, despite players remaining in the dark in an “incredibly secretive” process by league standards.

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When The Daily Beast contacted a representative for Walsh at the Labor Department on Monday, they claimed they had no knowledge of the move. But sources have indicated that the new job has been in the works at least for a bit.

The biggest sticking point, according to those familiar with the deliberations, was Walsh’s ties to Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.

Jacobs, a major donor during Walsh’s tenure as Boston mayor, is also the chairman of the NHL’s Board of Governors, the only group the players union distrusts more than the owners themselves.

“I don’t know how that will go down with everybody,” the player told The Daily Beast, requesting anonymity to speak candidly about the developments. “If he has close ties with the Bruins owner, you’d have to assume he has ties to other owners.”

The seasoned pro also questioned whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had a hand in the process.

“It’s definitely a little janky to say the least,” the player said. “I don’t know if that’s Bettman working his magic or what, but it seems a little off.”

One high ranking NHL executive who has been in the league for more than four decades told The Daily Beast, "I don't even know who Marty Walsh is," an indication of the outgoing labor secretary’s relatively unknown status in the world of hockey.

Biden picked Walsh as labor secretary because of his reputation among labor unions while also being seen as a reasonable negotiator among the business community, with Walsh cutting his teeth at the helm of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council.

According to the Daily Faceoff, Walsh introduced himself to the NHLPA’s executive board last Friday ahead of the league’s all-star weekend in Florida, and will earn a salary of $3 million per year without having to relocate from Dorchester to Toronto.

Walsh has been public about being ejected from a Bruins game for being too inebriated at the old Boston Garden in the mid-1990s, prompting him to seek treatment for alcoholism.

The former mayor described the incident as his “rock bottom.”

Now, Walsh will be taking the reins of a union with myriad grievances against the league and a collective bargaining agreement expiring at the end of the 2025-2026 season.

Representatives for Walsh and the NHLPA did not immediately return requests for comment.

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