SBD/Issue 242/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Paul Kelly Reportedly Accessed Sealed NHLPA Meeting Minutes

Sources Say Kelly Asked An NHLPA
Employee To Access Sealed Transcripts
NHL player reps fired NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly early Monday morning after union Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove presented evidence that Kelly accessed sealed transcripts of union meeting minutes in violation of NHLPA regulations, sources said. Kelly did not return phone calls and Hargrove said he would not confirm or deny that he presented such evidence. One source said Hargrove, who gave his presentation between 1:00-3:00am ET Monday morning, showed player reps a series of e-mails Kelly exchanged with an NHLPA employee in which Kelly asked the employee to access sealed transcripts from the ‘09 NHLPA Players Meeting in Las Vegas. The meeting minutes Kelly wanted access to concerned a meeting of the NHLPA Advisory Board in June in which a four-member panel of player reps was appointed to investigate concerns about how the NHLPA office was being run. A source said that the employee expressed concern that retrieving the sealed transcripts would violate union rules and notified Hargrove of Kelly’s request. Later, Kelly contacted the court stenographer who took notes on the meeting and requested and secured the sealed transcripts, thereby circumventing NHLPA rules.

A LITTLE HISTORY REPEATING? The news shocked player reps, who were two years removed from an episode in which former NHLPA Exec Dir Ted Saskin monitored players’ e-mails. Sources said the presentation by Hargrove followed a presentation by a committee of four players who interviewed 25 NHLPA employees in July regarding Kelly’s leadership of the union. The players ultimately reached the conclusion and recommended to their peers that Kelly be dismissed for a variety of reasons, including: concerns about his ability to negotiate a new CBA, doubts about his ability to generate new revenues and the potential resignations of divisional player reps, advisory board members and a large portion of NHLPA staff. The combination of the players’ presentation and Hargrove’s presentation led 22 of 27 players to vote for Kelly’s dismissal early Monday morning. General Counsel Ian Penny was subsequently named as Interim Exec Dir (Mullen & Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

HIS SIDE OF THE STORY: Kelly last night discussed his dismissal at length with Toronto's The Fan 590, saying he was "stunned, saddened and disappointed" by his dismissal. Kelly: "I took (the position of Exec Dir) with the purpose of protecting players and doing what I could to expand their rights and benefits. ... I know that as I leave this job that I always acted ... with the best interest of the players in mind." Kelly added, "I thought we made a number of strides for the (NHLPA) during the time that I was there. I hope we've left it in a better place, and I'm disappointed that the executive board chose not to give me that opportunity." Kelly said he "has not been informed" whether the NHLPA will honor the remainder of his contract (The Fan 590, 9/2). Kelly said he first learned of discontent among NHL players at the meetings in Las Vegas. Kelly: "I would say it would be at that time I became aware that there were some people who were likely going to be seeking some way to push me along and push me out of my chair." He added, "I really don't accept for a minute the suggestion that I didn't do enough to connect with my players. There are 740 of our members; it's not always an easy thing to connect with all 740, but I tell you, I worked at it very hard." Kelly also has been accused of being too close with the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman, and he said, "Certainly, it was my view that you could have a constructive relationship with the league and still aggressively defend and protect the rights of players." Kelly added, "I'm still feeling a tremendous degree of sadness and disappointment and still an element of shock. ... There's a tinge of anger in there, as well" (, 9/2).

STATE OF THE UNION: Maple Leafs D and Exec Board member Garnet Exelby indicated that the union "likely will make some minor alterations to its constitution in the wake" of Kelly's dismissal. But in Toronto, Mike Zeisberger reports in "no way will any significant changes be implemented that would strip the players of any of the 'checks and balances' instituted to keep the union's executive director in line, whoever that might be." Exelby said, "We'll probably make a few tweaks here and there, but we definitely want to keep our checks and balances. That's the way we wanted it when (the constitution was rewritten). We wanted to make sure the players had control" (TORONTO SUN, 9/3). Bruins D and player rep Andrew Ference said, "You want a healthy working union and complete trust in your leadership. We were severely lacking that." Meanwhile, Ference added Kelly's firing had "absolutely nothing to do with him being cozy with Bettman or him being proactive toward looking for a solution" in upcoming CBA negotiations. Ference: "That's something that was valuable" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/3). Flames D and player rep Robyn Regehr also asserted that Kelly's relationship with Bettman was not an impetus for the firing. Regehr: "To say we got rid of him just because he had too good of a relationship with someone would be completely false" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/3).

WHY THE RUSH? Devils LW Brendan Shanahan felt that the decision was "rushed instead of waiting until training camp and giving everyone more information." Shanahan: "They kept players overnight and they had to make a decision at 4 a.m. They followed the constitution but the timing makes me suspicious." He added, "In the end it may be the right decision. I still don't like the way it was done and I'm still waiting for the details of why. A meeting happens in Chicago that nobody knew was happening at 3:30-4 o'clock in the morning" (, 9/2). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the NHLPA Monday "convinced a sleep-deprived players' executive board to gas their boss." It was a "slick, clever coup put over on hapless player reps -- who now discover the real world isn't drinking the Hargrove Kool-Aid that tasted so good to them at 3 a.m. in Chicago" (, 9/2). Meanwhile, in Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes, "Brace yourself for another bloody cage match between players and owners now that Paul Kelly has been fired. ... The shift in power was just a warning. Danger lies ahead, and there's no telling how much carnage will be left behind." Recent history has shown that the "dysfunctional union is way over its head when it comes to making decisions that require common sense" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/3).

Return to top
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug