Walsh Reportedly Trading Cabinet Post for NHL Players' Union Gig

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BOSTON (State House News Service) - Marty Walsh and Charlie Baker could soon have another topic to cover next time the two friends catch up: what it's like to run a major sports organization.

Walsh appears to be on the verge of leaving his job as U.S. labor secretary to take over as the next top leader of the NHL Players' Association, according to multiple reports published Tuesday. The move would make him the first Cabinet secretary under President Joe Biden to depart, more than two years into Biden's term.

Hockey news site The Daily Faceoff first reported the impending change, and other outlets including CNN and POLITICO confirmed the news. An official announcement is likely to come in the wake of the president's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, reports said.

A U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson said the office was unable to confirm reports of Walsh's departure.

Walsh spent eight years as mayor of Boston before joining Biden's Cabinet in 2021. Since then, he's been the face of labor relations for the federal government during a period of recovery from COVID-19 economic disruption, and he reportedly played a key role in averting a national rail shutdown last fall.

Suffolk University Sports Management Program Director Skip Perham, a former NBC Sports Boston executive, said he was "100 percent surprised" by news of Walsh's career change, particularly after Walsh had recently been floated as a possible candidate to become Biden's next chief of staff.

"Whether he was a real candidate or not for the Chief of Staff job, I can't think of two jobs more diametrically opposed than the gatekeeper to the President and the head of the NHL players' association," Perham said in a statement. "I have no doubt that the NHL PA position is a great job, but the NHL collective bargaining agreement does not expire for three more years and hockey seems as healthy as ever. League revenues are at $5 billion per year and the league has newly minted media revenues that total more than a $1 billion per year locked in for many years. The NHL players have fought hard to get 50 percent of league revenues and to me this job is about helping to keep the game growing for league and the players."

His apparent new job succeeding NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr would represent a return to organized labor for Walsh, a longtime Boston Bruins fan who helmed the Boston Building Trades before he became a state representative and then mayor.

It also lines Walsh up with Baker, a Republican with whom he shared an across-the-aisle friendship sometimes referred to as a "bromance." (When Walsh sat in the front row for Baker's final state of the commonwealth address in 2022, the governor recognized the secretary and declared from the podium, "I miss you, man.")

Baker will take over as president of the NCAA in March, trading his work managing state government for a new role overseeing collegiate athletics across the country at a time when policy issues related to player compensation abound.

Walsh is likely in line for a substantial raise over the roughly $203,000 he earned in 2022. The Daily Faceoff reported that Walsh could earn about $3 million per year when his selection to the NHLPA becomes official.

It's less clear how the job will affect Walsh's political future. He's been something of a free agent since departing City Hall, and he reportedly weighed a bid for governor of Massachusetts after Baker opted against seeking a third term but ultimately decided not to jump into the race.

Walsh is still sitting on a massive pile of campaign cash. His account with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance is still active, and although he did not report any new fundraising in January, Walsh ended the month with more than $4.6 million in cash on hand that he could deploy to a future run for office.

Written by By Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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