SBD/Issue 96/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Kelly Less Bullish On NHL Finances, Talks Relocation To Canada

Kelly Said NHL Should Look To
Canada In Case Of Relocation
NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly yesterday said that while he "expects the next NHL season to open" with the current 30 teams, relocating franchises "north is the way to go if that changes," according to Shi Davidi of the CP. Kelly, speaking before last night's Conn Smythe Celebrities Dinner & Auction in Toronto, said, "I actually believe that Toronto and the greater Southern Ontario area certainly can support a second team and that sooner (rather) than later we ought to have a second team here. If we reach the point where one of the existing franchises runs into real difficulties and they can't continue to exist in that location, than I think we need to look here first, to Canada." Kelly sounded "pessimistic" about the Coyotes' chance of survival. Kelly: "We hope they survive but it's a tough market when you're in the desert and most of your [populace] hasn't grown up on the sport, playing the sport." Meanwhile, Kelly yesterday estimated that overall NHL revenues were between $2.6-2.61B, and "pointed to concern over the remaining non-guaranteed revenue sources like playoff ticket sales and concessions as the reason for the union's increase in escrow payments from the players." Kelly said the 22.5% players are paying in escrow is the "right number for the players' association." Kelly: "I suspect if you ask the league, they would probably have come in around [16-17%]" (CP, 2/4).

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes Kelly believes that the NHLPA "could look at ways of making fighting safer," which could include "ensuring players keep their helmets on during fights." Kelly yesterday said, "I don't believe fighting will be eliminated from the game, nor do I believe it should be eliminated from the game. But we have a responsibility as a players' association -- and all of us in hockey have a responsibility -- to take a good hard look at the issue in light of these recent tragedies." Kelly added, "Hypothetically, should we consider some kind of rule about helmets, that you need to keep them on during fights and do we instruct our officials that when a helmet comes off, that they should step in and stop the fight? That's one of the things we should look at." Kelly also believes that the "time has come to review the value of staged fights -- ones that do not arise in the heat of the moment but are set up in advance." Kelly: "My view has always been, if the fight arises out of the emotion and spontaneity of the game, if you're rising to the defence of a teammate or yourself as a result of a perceived dirty hit, then that's all a natural part of the game" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5). Wild LW Derek Boogaard said stopping a fight when one player loses a helmet is "just common sense." But Wild GM Doug Risebrough conceded that fighting is a "necessary component of policing the NHL game and won't go away." Risebrough: "Let's face it, there's a lot of people who come to these games to see hockey and they don't mind watching a fight" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/5).

UNION JUNCTION: TSN.ca's Darren Dreger cited sources as saying that September 7th "marked the beginning of the end of Eric Lindros's time as the NHLPA's Ombudsman." Lindros, who resigned from his union position earlier this week, at an NHLPA meeting in Chicago in September allegedly asked Kelly to "leave the room so he could openly discuss his issues with [Kelly] with an audience of player representatives." Sources said that these issues "ranged from Kelly's perceived closeness to the NHL, to cosmetic concerns over which cities Kelly attended games." Kelly was "given an opportunity to respond to Lindros' complaints and the matter was quickly dismissed by the players." Some "believe Lindros was trying to undermine Kelly's authority in that meeting, while others suggest Lindros was doing his job as the NHLPA's watch dog." Lindros, when asked to comment, said, "This is an internal matter within the PA" (TSN.ca, 2/4). When asked about Lindros’ resignation, Kelly said, "We're in the business of looking forward rather than looking back. As far as we're concerned it's nothing that really requires any detailed comment" (CP, 2/4).

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