SBD/Issue 241/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Paul Kelly "Stunned And Saddened" By His Dismissal From NHLPA

Kelly Will Wait Until Later This Week
To Give His Interpretation Of His Ouster
Ousted NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly said he is "still stunned and saddened" by his removal from office earlier this week, according to Tim Wharnsby of the GLOBE & MAIL. Speaking publicly for the first time since Monday's developments, Kelly indicated that he "wants time to sort out his sentiments," and will "wait until later this week to give his interpretation of the events." Kelly: "I want to take some time to let my emotions settle before I talk about this. ... I need a little time to figure out exactly what I want to say to the players and to the public." Several NHL players yesterday "shared Kelly's reaction of shock at the news that Kelly had been sacked after just 22 months on the job." One player said, "This came out of left field. The decision has most of us scratching our heads. But we don't know any of the facts." Wharnsby notes the NHLPA Exec Board has "tried to keep the precise details that led to Kelly's removal a secret until the rest of the players are informed." But it is "clear that there was a disconnect between Kelly and the players that made the executive board uneasy." There also was a "rift between Kelly and some of the high-level NHLPA employees," including General Counsel Ian Penny, now serving as interim Exec Dir, and former Ombudsman Eric Lindros (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/2).

LOOKING AHEAD: Maple Leafs D and Exec Board member Garnet Exelby yesterday said that the NHLPA will have "much more resolve and unity" when the current CBA expires. The current deal expires after the '10-11 season, with the union holding an option to extend it for one more year, and Exelby said, "I don't think anyone is planning for a work stoppage. But we definitely intend to hold together and stay strong." He added, "The last time we gave up a lot. I think it's a fair statement that ownership got what it wanted in the last agreement. We definitely have a problem with the escrow issue." In Toronto, Mike Zeisberger notes some believe that Kelly's "warm relationship with the league was one of the many factors that led to his dismissal." Exelby: "We need a strong leader. We need to find someone who understands we are in charge, someone who understands decisions go through us" (TORONTO SUN, 9/2). But former NHLPA Dir of Business Relations Vincent Damphousse yesterday said that the union's next leader "must be free to work and make decisions without the fear of being fired at any moment." Damphousse: "For the new guy coming in, the players need to let him work. There was maybe too much leeway before and now it's like the guy is in handcuffs. He's got to be able to work with confidence." Kelly's successor will be the union's fourth Exec Dir in five years, in addition to Bob Goodenow, who left in '05, and his replacement Ted Saskin. Damphousse: "A lot of players and even people within the office want someone who is like Bob a bit -- more of a iron fist and being confrontational with the league. I feel it's much better to work with the league" (CP, 9/1).

 
THE FUTURE SEEMS OMINOUS: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes, "Danger lies ahead, and there's no telling how much carnage will be left behind. Recent history has shown the dysfunctional union is way over its head when it comes to making decisions that require common sense." The reasons for Kelly's departure are not known, as the NHLPA "offered no explanation." However, it "sure looks like it's preparing for another long labor dispute." Free agent LW Andrew Peters, the Sabres' player rep, said, "You're going to hear more down the road. People are going to respect players for their decisions and their strength. We have guys in that room and on that board that are very smart guys, very intelligent. Give it time." But Gleason writes, "People should remain skeptical until proven otherwise about a union that hasn't done much right in recent years" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/2). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote NHL players, with "no unity of collective backbone, are in no position to stand up to the league, but they may be driving themselves" toward another work stoppage. Union membership "won't be honest with their plans, and the skullduggery which unseated Kelly is an ominous sign of the civil war that is still being waged within that organization" (THESTAR.com, 9/1).

CRUEL, CRUEL SUMMER: In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes the NHL "desperately needs to create a buzz on the ice, because it's coming out of a summer-long public-relations disaster." In addition to Kelly's dismissal, the NHL "continues to wrestle with the future" of the Coyotes, while the "latest hot spot is Tampa Bay," where Lightning co-Owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules are feuding. In addition, the league's TV deal with Versus "continues to bite the NHL" as DirecTV this week "pulled the plug on Versus in a dispute over carriage fees" (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/2).

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