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NHLPA begins search for new chief

The NHL Players’ Association hopes to find a new union chief by as early as the end of the year,  and perhaps without the help of an executive search firm.

The union will begin the work of finding a new executive director to replace Paul Kelly, who was fired by a vote of player reps Aug. 31, after holding a conference call with the executive board later this month.

Interested candidates have already been contacting the union about the job, NHLPA interim Executive Director Ian Penny said last week. “We definitely have had expressions of interest,” he said. He would not say how many potential candidates contacted the union nor provide their names.

Penny, who was general counsel before being named interim executive director, reiterated last week that he is not a candidate.

Kelly was fired by a vote of 22-5 after a meeting of player representatives in Chicago at which representatives heard two reports critical of his leadership.

“I think the players are committed to getting the search process moving and getting it completed within a reasonable time frame,” Penny said. A new executive director could be selected “ideally by the new year,” he said, adding, “it’s a target.”

Players will hold a conference call before the Oct. 1 opening of the NHL season to discuss the search in detail, including potentially forming a search committee,  and discussing the qualifications of the job and the search process, Penny said.

Penny said some players at the meeting in Chicago questioned whether using a search firm “that places corporate CEOs” was the best model to use to find a new union head. They “said we should take a fresh look at the search process and see if there is a new way to go about it,” Penny said.

Chicago-based search firm Reilly Partners was involved in placing Kelly.

Reilly also was involved in placing Kevin Lovitt, who left his post as the union’s marketing director earlier this month. NHLPA staff will seek guidance from players on the conference call on how and when to replace Lovitt. The NHLPA would not discuss Lovitt’s departure other than to say he is no longer working there.

Under the NHLPA constitution, any member may participate in the board’s conference calls. “We will answer any question that any player poses,” Penny said.

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