Showing posts with label NHLPA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NHLPA. Show all posts

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mr. Bettman brings out the padlocks...


It has not gone without notice here at the HockeyNation that we've not posted an item on hockey since June 11th, the last real day of celebration of a sport we all enjoy.

It was that date that the NHL handed off Lord Stanley's Mug to the LA Kings, in celebration of hockey excellence in 2011-12, a chance no doubt to build the brand in Southern California and provide hope for such troubled franchises as Phoenix and Florida to name a few.

A chance that has perhaps been lost once again, now that yet another labour disruption has intruded into that glow.

With rumblings of  labour discontent (or at least ownership desires for a larger share of the generated revenues) on the horizon, we sat back and listened to the drum beats of war such as they are in the NHL.

A prospect of no hockey come September, left us less than interested in such things as the draft, the free agency and all of that, our thoughts being as the younger generation these days would say, meh, let us know if there is something to watch on the ice.

And as summer begins to morph into fall it would seem there won't be any hockey in the short term at least.

The NHL allowed the CBA to expire on midnight of Saturday night, setting up the fourth labour disruption in the league's history, the third of the reign of Gary Bettman.

Very much a case of millionaires fighting millionaires, the battle such as it will be seemingly to move the percentage points a few positions towards the owners side of the business ledger.

What appears to be lost on both sides of this dispute is the fact that in a world economy that struggles for the folks that actually follow the sport, it's very much a case of rich guys fighting it out over how to get richer, frankly we just don't relate.

Most fans probably don't understand the NHL's business plan or structure, a strange little strategy that places franchises in locations that don't seem to much like hockey (as empty seats will testify), leaving behind cities (many in Canada we note) where the game not only resonates and is part of the fabric of the community, but are locations that would support a team and a league with full rinks and bountiful revenues.

On the players side, fans perhaps wonder about a labour base that makes millions of dollars to play a game, already well compensated, many might wonder just what those players might do for a living had they not through hard work, sacrifice of their parents and of course their own talent made their way through the building blocks of hockey from minor to the pro.

No one begrudges them their success, but at some point the zeros on the salary negotiations become dizzying and rather unrealistic to the average fan.

In an economic era of high unemployment  and fears that a recession is but a few unfortunate twists away from a depression,  the idea that the average fan might have sympathy for either side seems laughable.

Most probably struggle to put together the monthly payments for real issues, the electricity, the gas, tuition for their kids, health payments and other necessities of life, perhaps wondering about the wisdom of even the monthly cable or satellite subscription that lets them sit back and watch hockey come the fall.

The idea of season tickets more likely a dream that just isn't in the budget, with even the chance to attend the odd game perhaps but the thing of wishful thinking.

So, whenever the two sides get back together again to see if there is common ground, maybe factor in the idea that you both are alienating the very folks that give your game any relevance, let alone monetary value.

Saturday's deadline and lock out is actually a false start, the real lock out would start with the first game of the regular season in October, that's when the reality of it all will come home, until then it's just more and more of the same old positioning we were treated to through July and August, a tiresome dance that really holds little of interest to most.

Add onto that the rather hypocritical events of the last few weeks, where GM's and owners that are complaining so much about the current  terms of the CBA have been rushing to sign up their key players heading into the lockout, signing them to contract terms of the CBA they apparently despise so much.

It's enough to think perhaps Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr need to spend some time with Dr. Phil, to better understand the inconsistencies of it all.

From time to time we may check back in to see if anything has developed, to that end we recommend subscribing to the HockeyNation email alert program atop our page right, any updates to our blog will be delivered to your email address for your reading enjoyment.

For how long the terms of labour contracts will replace shifts on the ice remains to be seen.

Many observers are suggesting that the idea of a full season off the ice is unlikely, instead they suggest we may see some hockey by November, just in time for the HBO 24/7 previews that have led into the Winter Classic game of New Years Day.

Maybe yes, maybe no, at the moment now there's no hockey camps set to open, yet another season for hockey fans to ponder if the game as we have known it over the last few years isn't just a little bit broken.

The owners and the players have the opening words in this latest dispute, the fans both in franchise cities and at home can have the final ones, while in the end hockey fans will no doubt return to the game when it makes it back to the rink.

There's nothing to say that we can't take our time doing it, leaving a few nights of empty rinks and tepid ratings as a reminder that hockey exists only because of its fans, something that both sides seem to forget most of the time.

Below we offer up some points of note from the lockout day, a helpful synopsis of where we are and how we got there.

However, we do suggest that this Roy MacGregor's Globe and Mail column is definitely worth a read or two, maybe three. In fact we suggest that both the NHL owners and players pass it around, it nicely sums up how hockey fans should perceive all this madness.

Globe and Mail-- With players officially locked out, where does NHL go from here?
Globe and Mail-- Timeline of NHL labour negotiations
Globe and Mail-- Put the chicken wings back in the freezer, businesses brace for lockout
Globe and Mail-- Reasons the lockout will be short and why the season may be in jeopardy
Globe and Mail-- Hypocrisy or cynicism? NHL races to sign players before midnight lockout
National Post-- The NHL lockout has officially arrived
National Post-- NHL lockout a stalemate seven years in the making
National Post-- What the #!%*?: Explaining the NHL lockout
National Post-- NHL players begin hunt for other hockey options in wake of lockout
National Post-- Mark your calendar: The NHL lockout starts Saturday night
National Post-- NHL lockout surrounded by flurry of roster moves
Toronto Sun-- NHL lockout deadline passes
Toronto Sun-- 3 Strikes on Bettman
Toronto Sun-- Sidney Crosby and NHLPA's Donald Fehr go back a ways
Toronto Sun-- Bill Daly and Steve Fehr keep lines of communications open
Toronto Sun-- Little sympathy for NHL owners
Toronto Sun-- Odds in favour of long NHL lockout
Toronto Sun-- Bettman cries poor while NHL teams go on spending spree
Toronto Star-- NHL lockout: Day 1 begins with no end in sight
Toronto Star-- NHL, NHLPA relationship 50 shades of Nasty
Toronto Star-- New Leaf owners Rogers, Bell get painful introduction
Toronto Star-- Sticky issues, possible solutions to hockey impasse
Canada.com -- Sides tay away from bargaining table as NHL enters another lockout
Canada.com-- Commissioner Bettman shows emotion in defending NHL stance: no deal, no season
Canada.com-- Gridlock and it's getting personal
Canada.com-- NHL fans been down this road before

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NHLPA announces Paul Kelly as their new director




Wednesday didn’t exactly bring any breaking news from the NHL Players Association, the announcement and introduction of Paul Kelly as their new director, merely a formality after word was out last week that after a lengthy search, the NHLPA had found their man.

Kelly a Boston lawyer, takes over a union which has been at war with itself for a number of months that after the forced removal of Ted Saskin from the job, after reported irregular activities over e mails led many to believe that the association was heading in the wrong direction.

In Kelly’s first address to the media, he preached a process of consultation, looking to visit each and every team over the next month or so in order to introduce himself to the over 700 members, learning their issues and urging the rank and rile to become more involved in their association.

A daunting task, for a union that has been plagued by apathy and is at times not the most cohesive group of participants. The Teamsters these guys will never be confused with.

Kelly’s arrival will however signal a change in the relationship between the players and the league, a relationship which by all indications has benefited the league’s interests over the last few years.

As for relations with Gary Bettman, Kelly wants to meet and have a chat, respectful and proactive to better further the game and of course the position of his new constituents, the members of the association. However, respectful most likely won’t translate into chummy, a term which seemed to dog Saskin as his days dwindled as head of the union.

Kelly, said he understands that hockey is a business, a joint venture if you will, but he also knows when the time comes to draw the line and to work tirelessly on behalf of the players.

However, there was no talk today of strikes, lockouts, contracts or hard feelings with management or fellow union members, instead a forward thinking vision of where he would like to take the association and how he sees himself fitting into their affairs.

Kelly has a pretty impressive resume and is best known in hockey circles for taking part in the prosecution of Alan Eagleson, the original director of the NHLPA who like Saskin found himself ousted after a number of players began to question his efforts on their behalf. Eagleson, found himself in a court room, thanks in a good deal by the efforts of Kelly to unearth the evidence that was presented in court and led to his conviction on fraud charges.

During that trial, a large number of former players watched on with interest, finally secure in the knowledge that a long time wrong had been righted. So it’s not surprising that one of the first projects that Kelly wishes to tackle is a better relationship with and improved assistance for former players, many of whom are suffering financial and health problems.

For far too long, NHL players once they leave the game for the most part disappeared into a black hole, unless they were the highest of profile players they were for the most part forgotten by the league, their old teams and many of their fellow players.

Over the years there have been countless stories of ancient warriors, left destitute and in failing health with no one to turn to. Kelly would like to change that, providing his office as a conduit for them and to help provide some relief for those human issues.

If he can follow through on that initiative, as well as provide an open and transparent handling of the current player’s affairs, then his 10 million dollar, five year salary will seem like one of the best insurance policies that the players could ever have invested in.

The union’s credibility is still tarnished, many of the players still apathetic, but slowly it seems that they are turning their affairs around. Wednesday most likely was treated as a very positive day for the players association, the end of a dark period of their times and perhaps the rebirth of a more effective advocate for their interests.
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What will be interesting to watch will be the reaction and subsequent relationship that the NHL office has from today's confirmation.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A more tradtional relationship may be on the way

The NHLPA has nominated their candidate to take over the leadership of the players union, former US attorney, Paul Kelly, a no nonsense, advocate for the players and most likely, more inclined to take a more traditional approach to labour relations with the NHL.

Kelly is best known in hockey circles for two key events in recent hockey history, when he represented Marty McSorley after the infamous Donald Brashear attack, and for his involvement in the process to bring Alan Eagleson to justice. The latter event saw the former NHLPA executive director agree to plead guilty on fraud and embezzlement charges and brought to an end a rather controversial era to the NHL labour scene.

That was the last great scandal in labour relations until last years overthrow of Ted Saskin, the NHLPA head who found himself under increased scrutiny and eventually dismissed over alleged incidents of hacking into the player’s e mail accounts. Saskin was terminated as the NHLPA head after it reportedly became common knowledge of his electronic gathering, apparently while seeking out the identity of dissenters to his leadership.

Saskin’s fascination with e mail seems to have made a come back on the union radar with more details over the weekend courtesy of the Toronto Star’s Rick Westhead, who has an interesting review of events posted to the Toronto Star website.

In the Westhead article, the picture of Daly as more of a pipeline to the NHL than an advocate for the players seems to be portrayed. As he and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly exchanged e mail correspondences that have raised the eyebrows and the ire of many of the NHLPA rank and file.

In one particular e mail, Daly reportedly forwarded to Saskin, a correspondence between himself and TSN's Gord Miller (good luck getting any player interviews this season), which outlined lawyer Ian Pulver and former NHL star Steve Larmer as two staunch opponents to the direction that Saskin was taking the players association.

Another now infamous correspondence, has Saskin e mailing Commissioner Gary Bettman advising that he may send Chris Chelios to a planned meeting in Russia in 2006, a suggestion which produced a reply from the Commissioner, that a one way ticket for Chelios might be an idea.

While the reply shows one of the few indications that Gary Bettman has a sense of humour, the rather cozy familiarity that he and Saskin seemed to share, has raised alarm bells about how the relationship between union and management may have been co-opted.

It’s anticipated that if Kelly is approved on October 23rd with a simple majority of NHL players, that the past days of back channels and inside information will be brought to an end.

This will be an important step for the players association, which has the opportunity to re-open the NHL-NHLPA agreement in the 2008-09 season. The first opportunity that they will have to seek redress to their grievances over the way that those negotiations evolved, now with the added suggestion that they may have been undermined from within during that time.

There has been some debate as to how much power a new Executive Director will have, in August, Eric Lindros who is a member of the NHLPA's constitutional committee and has been a major player in the behind the scenes process to reclaim the union over the last few months.

Lindros said in August, that the thirty teams will have much more of a say in the day to day operations of the association than in the past and that any new director will most likely have less power than his predecessors.

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of the players association should Kelly be acclaimed as the Executive Director, one thing is certain the congratulatory telegram from the NHL (if there is one) will no doubt be short and business like, emoticons and jokes most likely won’t be part of the day to day correspondence schedule from now on.

Even more important will be the distancing of the association from the league, a more familiar union/management relationship is on the horizon for the NHL, one which may see the league return to the more heated debates of the past.

Stephen Brunt reviews the events that transpired during the Saskin years, with a riveting tale of duplicity and power plays that left the union battered and questioning whether their union really had their interests at heart at a key point in NHL history.

At least from the players point of view, they will now only have one battle to fight in the future, the agent provocateurs from within will have been deleted, a process that the NHL itself is probably wishing it had done with some embarrassing e mails, correspondences that have left a trail of suspicion dating back more than a few years now.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Baseball's Union head shares some thoughts with the NHLPA


Gary Bettman's week just got a little worse, never mind his mis-handling of the attempted purchase of the Nashville Predators by Ontario's rich guy, Jim Balsillie.

That is but a small blip on the radar, as opposed to the developments over at the NHLPA these days. The players association has been in a fair amount of disarray since the dismissal of Ted Saxton earlier this year. While they drift along hoping to find the right leader and set up a better system of accountability, they are busy taking advice and Wednesday saw a big hitter from Major League Baseball add his voice and knowledge of negotiating matters to the NHLPA"s discussion bard.

Donald Fehr, who has long led the MLB playes association took part in day two of the NHLPA's three days meetings which wrap up on Thursday. He provided some insight into how the Baseball association works and how they try to include the rank and file as much as possible.

While he didn't elaborate on his participation, many suspect that he probably offered up some rather pointed opinions on salary caps, the baseball association has been against the concept for a number of years and his membership are quite happy with the current situation with its many rewards just as it is.

You can be assured that should he have discussed that project with the NHLers, there wouldn't have been a noise in the hall as he spoke. If his participation this week is indicative of a wider role in the future for Fehr, then Gary Bettman's days and nights might get to be a little more challenging in the future.

he may have thought that he won the big battle a few years ago, but it would appear that the reinforcements are starting to arrive and the opposition generals are making some smart moves in seeking out help from those that have been on the front lines. It may prove to be another file for the commissioner to try and keep from becoming too troublesome

Fehr lends a hand to rebuilding hockey union
PIERRE LEBRUN
Canadian Press

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

TORONTO — The rebuilding NHL Players' Association heard a message of openness Wednesday from baseball union boss Donald Fehr.

Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association since December 1985, told 20 player reps essentially how things work over at his union, and what he felt were things in his collective agreement that worked well.

"There's no secret to what we do," Fehr told reporters afterward. "Basically all of our meetings, except meetings relating to something confidential about an individual player, are open to any player and we always have them present and participating in negotiating meetings.

"And all-around communication, discussion, involvement and making certain that when key decisions have to be made they're made by the players, and not by somebody else — that's what we do."

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Fehr's talk was part of the NHLPA's three-day meeting, which wraps up Thursday with an important vote regarding next season's salary cap and a decision on the next step in finding Ted Saskin's replacement as executive director.

The player reps also heard Wednesday from former NBA union executive Charles Grantham and veteran Toronto lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, one of Canada's foremost constitutional, labour and administrative law experts.

The player reps are hoping all the advice they get will help in deciding how to restructure their organization and also in forming a search committee to hire their next leader. The hockey union has been looking for a new executive director to replace Saskin, who was fired this spring over accusations he ordered the reading of players' e-mails. A full investigative report by Toronto lawyer Sheila Block remains on target to be concluded in August.

Meanwhile, the feeling at the NHLPA these days is one of rebirth. Members are confident that out of the ashes of a nasty bout of in-fighting, caused by a divisive lockout in 2004-05, will come a new unified group. And a new way of doing things.

"I can tell you that I'm impressed with the seriousness of the group, with their demeanour," Fehr said of the player reps. "I think they have a gut-level understanding, which is always the first step, of what the task is in front of them. If I were a betting man, which I'm not, I would guess that over the next several months moving forward you're going to see a reconstituted organization which they're all going to be very proud of.

"At least that was the indication I had today."

While Fehr would not divulge any specifics from his talk with the player reps, one can assume he didn't hide his feelings on the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, which for the first time in history included a team-by-team salary cap. Fehr's union is the last among the major North American pro sports not to have a hard limit on spending.

"I think as many of you know if you follow baseball that's not something that we think has worked for us," Fehr said of a salary cap.

The current NHL agreement with the players expires after the 2010-11 season although the union reserves the right to re-open after the fourth season, 2008-09. But one has to wonder why the union would want to. Look no further than Kimmo Timonen, who is still dizzy from signing a six-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers that pays him US$6.3 million a year.
Just three years removed from a year-long lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, NHL players next season will likely earn more in average salary than they did before the lockout.

The salary cap, meanwhile, continues to rise at an alarming pace, which is music to the players' ears. From the original US$39 million in 2005-06 to US$44 million this past season, next year's figure will run between US$48 million to just over US$50 million depending on Thursday's vote by player reps.

As stipulated in the collective agreement, a five per cent "inflator" automatically gets tacked on top of the figure that the league and union accountants calculate from hockey-related revenues of over US$2.1 billion — unless the NHLPA and NHL agree to do otherwise. Last summer both sides agreed to zero per cent inflation instead of five per cent, the union worried about having to pay back owners in escrow payments if they earned more than their allotted share.

The bottom line, inflator or no inflator, is that players cannot eat up more than 55 per cent of revenues next season.

Without the five per cent inflator, the salary cap would stand at a little more than US$48 million next season. If the player reps vote to keep the five per cent inflator, then the cap likely stands at more than US$50 million.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eight missed roll call!

While the majority ruled in the case of tossing NHLPA head Ted Saskin off the good Ship Association, there is an interesting story coming out of Thursday’s vote to terminate the players association chief.

It turns out, that while a good number of player reps picked up a phone and made their vote by phone, for a variety of reasons eight player reps chose not to participate in the executioners court held across North America on Thursday.

It’s a situation that seems to outline some of the many problems that the Players Association has these days in providing relevant leadership on key issues. From the forced departure of Bob Goodenow, to the unusual entrance and subsequent departure of Mr. Saskin, the players union once again comes under scrutiny for a lack of vision and accountability of late.

The next phase for the union is to decide where they are to go from here, any number of ideas have been bounced around as the association tries to right itself and move forward after a very tumultuous few months.

Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail has put together a very informative look at the machinations of the association, how far too many of the league’s players take a less than interested approach to its make up, which probably is the most likely reason that the association finds itself in such a state as it has of late.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Saskin sent packin’

90 minutes was all it took for the NHLPA to advise their most recent leader that his services were no longer required. Ted Saskin, the embattled head of the players association was removed by unanimous vote Thursday.

With that decision another tempestuous chapter in the Association’s history came to a form of closure, though it’s expected that Saskin will be heading for court, to make sure that he receives what he calls: “a fair resolution of my contractual rights with the NHLPA.” Which must be lawyerese for my attorney will talk with your attorney…?

With Saskin now heading for the sunset, the NHLPA will have to get busy to install new leadership at the top, making sure that eventually the duties of the Players Association will return to actually taking care of the PA’s needs.

Alan Maki provided a fairly complete piece in the Globe and Mail, that more or less brings this dispute into a bit of perspective.

Players take 90 minutes to axe Saskin
ALLAN MAKI
From Friday's Globe and Mai
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CALGARY — Trent Klatt was at home in Northern Minnesota when he heard that Ted Saskin had been fired as the executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association.
As one of the principal dissidents who questioned Saskin's hiring and handiwork as the union boss, Klatt should have felt vindicated yesterday, maybe even satisfied.

Instead, he was stunned and angry.

Before the NHLPA's executive board met by telephone conference call and voted unanimously to fire Saskin with cause, they were informed in writing by Toronto lawyer Chris Paliare that Saskin had accessed the players' private e-mail accounts, not for the benefit of the players, but rather for "Mr. Saskin's personal interests."

Ted Saskin responds to a question during a news conference in Toronto, in this July 28, 2005 file photo. Saskin, the NHLPA executive director, was fired Thursday as executive director of the NHL Players' Association. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

According to Paliare's report, the surveillance had been going on since 2005 and included "the external [non-NHLPA] e-mail account of one former player and the reading of solicitor-client privileged communications."

Klatt, who retired two years ago, is convinced he is the former player and that his personal e-mail was accessed before the lawsuit he and two other NHL players filed against Saskin in October of 2006.

"It was disturbing to hear that my NHLPA e-mail account was compromised, and I felt sick when I heard that," Klatt said by e-mail. "If NHLPA employees were tapping into my non-NHLPA e-mail account and viewing my personal e-mails, as well as all communications with my lawyers, I will be horrified and pursue those responsible through all legal avenues available to me, both criminally and civilly."

Klatt wasn't the only one talking of legal action.

During the executive board's 90-minute conference call, the players discussed Saskin's response to being fired with cause. Firing with cause means the NHLPA will agree to fulfill only certain financial obligations, but not pay Saskin the estimated $6-million (all currency U.S.) that remains on his contract.

One player, who asked not to be identified, said the NHLPA expects Saskin to sue. Even Saskin made a veiled reference to what could happen next in a statement to The Canadian Press.
"I will work towards a fair resolution of my contractual rights with the NHLPA and wish them well in the future," Saskin wrote.

Phoenix Coyotes forward Kevyn Adams, a member of the NHLPA's interim executive committee, said firing Saskin was a clear-cut decision.

"There wasn't any support for him," Adams said." It was unanimous that this was something we needed to do. Once we saw the report from the lawyer we hired [Paliare], it was evident. We took his advice [to fire Saskin]."

Saskin's troubles began almost the moment he was chosen as the successor to Bob Goodenow. Saskin's hiring allegedly bypassed the NHLPA's constitution, while Klatt, along with Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson, claimed Saskin misrepresented salary figures of other sports union bosses to negotiate a five-year deal worth $10-million.

Initially, Klatt, Chelios and Roloson were belittled by NHLPA officials as being too loud and too offbase to bother with. Their lawsuit against Saskin in 2006 was dismissed by a U.S. federal court judge who ruled that the suit should have been filed in Southern Ontario, where the NHLPA head office is based.

When it was later reported Saskin had been allegedly accessing player e-mail — Toronto police investigated the matter, but have not filed criminal charges — support for Klatt, Chelios and Roloson grew even among Saskin's supporters.

"I always knew that we were doing the right thing," Klatt said, "and it was easy to continue to fight for the players when we knew that we were on the right side of right."

The NHLPA placed Saskin on a paid leave of absence in early March when it learned that private e-mail had allegedly been accessed. Ken Kim, the association's director of marketing, was also suspended with pay.

Kim's status was debated yesterday and no formal announcement was made, although he, too, could be fired with cause and cut off financially.

"The situation with Ken Kim is still up in the air," Adams said. "We need to look at our options as an executive board and make a decision on him at a later date."

The NHLPA will have more information when Toronto lawyer Sheila Block completes her independent review of how Saskin was hired and how he ran the association during his 22-month stint.

Block's report will be presented in August and could provide the players with ammunition to pursue legal action against Saskin.

In the meantime, the players have planned to hold another conference call before the end of the month to hire a head-hunting firm to begin the search for a new executive director. There is a notion this time that the NHLPA should look outside the hockey world for a candidate who can increase revenue as a strong advocate for the union.

As for Saskin, he exited for the moment by saying he remained "proud of all the work I did for NHL players over the last 16 years and particularly in negotiating the new CBA, which has been working out well."

With a report from Tim Wharnsby

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Will it be a Pink slip Thursday for Ted Saskin?




The twisted path of leadership success and then mounting rebuke for NHLPA head Ted Saskin may finally come to a dead end on Thursday.

Alan Maki of the Globe and Mail is reporting that the NHLPA is set to cut Saskin adrift, fired with cause as they say, as the lengthy bout of finger pointing, secret meetings and cell phone calls comes to an end.

The move as interpreted by the NHLPA will result in the Players Association not having to pay out Saskin’s contract, which is a rather nice parachute of 6 million dollars US if allowed to open.

Of course the move by the NHLPA will most likely result in a number of lawyers smacking their lips and dreaming the dream of billable hours.

Saskin’s leadership came under heavy fire earlier this year when it became public that he had been eavesdropping on member’s e mails, a move which led to a Toronto police investigation.

Rebellious members of the NHLPA began their steps in earnest at that time to have him removed, pointing to a number of other concerns that they had about his leadership. As the weeks would wind down, Saskin’s supporters on the NHLPA began to drift away as well, leaving his leadership on thin ice and the expected announcement on Thursday but a formality.

Players set to lower the boom on Saskin
ALLAN MAKI
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ted Saskin's troubled reign as the executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association ends Thursday.

All indications are Saskin will be fired with cause during an afternoon telephone conference call involving NHL player representatives. Firing with cause means the players allege they will not have to pay Saskin what is left on his contract, an estimated $6-million (all currency U.S.).

That could set the stage for a nasty legal conflict between the man who succeeded Bob Goodenow and the people who were still paying him while he spent the past two months on leave.

Saskin was suspended after allegedly admitting to two NHLPA officials that he had read player e-mail, a violation of trust if not a criminal offence. (Toronto police did investigate Saskin's accessing of e-mail, but have not filed charges.)

It has also been alleged by two current NHL players (Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson) and retired player Trent Klatt that Saskin "illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars in union funds for his own benefit."

Toronto lawyer Sheila Block was hired to investigate Saskin's hiring as the executive director and how business was conducted during his time in office.

Block's report is scheduled for completion in the summer.

Another Toronto lawyer, Chris Paliare, was retained by the players in late March for advice on how to deal with Saskin after he was put on leave. Paliare spoke with Saskin and examined his five-year contract. Paliare talked to Ken Kim, the NHLPA's director of marketing, who was also suspended with pay for his role in accessing player e-mail.

Paliare recently sent a summary of his report to the player reps. It is believed his opinion applies to both Saskin and Kim: fire with cause and pay only what is legally required in terms of vacation pay and such, or fire without asserting cause and pay a severance.

Over the past several weeks, information on how Saskin operated and refused to answer questions has circulated among the players. Even Saskin's one-time supporters have undergone a change of heart and see him as a liability, which is why firing him and cutting off his paycheques are Thursday's likely course of action.

While that could lead to Saskin's filing a lawsuit in rebuttal, it would also allow the players to countersue in what would surely be a long and costly process, one that would drain Saskin faster than it would the players.

Either way, Saskin's run as the head of the NHLPA is over and not without irony. During his almost 22-month term, there were times when Saskin did not have the unanimous support of the players. For example, the vote to appoint him as the executive director was done by conference call, not by secret ballot, as the NHLPA constitution requires. It has been alleged, too, that to fight off a Chelios, Roloson and Klatt legal challenge in Illinois, Saskin used NHLPA funds to offset his legal costs without receiving the right approval.

For his ousting, the vote could very well be all in favour and none against.
As to what will happen next, NHLPA legal counsel Stu Grimson and Ian Penny are positioned to handle the day-to-day operations before the search for Saskin's successor begins.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

More casualties in the NHLPA feud

Another high profile member of the NHLPA has decided to exit the stage, as the state of the association continues to operate under a fair amount of suspicion.

The latest to wash his hands of things was Mike Gartner, who resigned his position with the union on Tuesday. Gartner told player reps that he had been holding misgivings about the way that union business was being conducted as far back as the fall of 2005.

The union is operating under a dark cloud of suspicion these days as lawyer for the association try to determine if they can relieve Ted Saskin of his duties for cause, without having to provide a large settlement.

The most recent controversy was the revelation that Saskin had read private e mails of dissident NHLPA members, a situation that resulted in his being placed on administrative leave while the next move is contemplated.

The loss of Gartner indicates that things are very much in flux at the NHLPA and that it's far from being a settled matter at the moment.

In another strange twist of events, a scheduled meeting between the IIHF and the NHL and NHLPA over the thorny issue of transfer agreements was postponed.

The issue is a complicated mess at the moment, with Russia refusing to sign any form of agreement and the rest of the European federations coming up for renewal at the end of the current season.

Even the reason for the postponment seems to be confusing, with the IIHF saying that the NHLPA could not send a representative to participate at this time due to their internal strife, a charge the NHLPA denied.

However, one thing seems certain until the NHLPA gets its own house in order there's going to be little accomplished in the form of negotiations either in house with the NHL or on the wider world stage.

Monday, March 12, 2007

On the shelf and maybe out the door!


The saga of Ted Saskin’s rocky stewardship of the NHL Players Association took another dramatic turn on Sunday night. The 30 team representatives held a much anticipated conference call regarding some disturbing incidents involving the leadership and its members over the last few months

The ninety minute call between the team reps and the union’s executive board resulted in a decision to place Saskin and senior executive Ken Kim on a leave of absence.

The controversial leadership issue reached a boiling point this past week over disclosures of league executives reading players e mail, allegedly to monitor those critical of the leadership of the union.

While Saskin and Kim are on leave of absences, the union is planning to contact legal counsel to examine their options. They would like a better understanding as to whether they can fire Saskin, without having to pay out the remainder of the 8 million dollar contract that he operates under.

It will be up to the lawyers to look through every clause and peer into each paragraph in quest of a successful exit out of an ugly situation. While they do what ever it is that lawyers do, there will be two people nominated to watch over the office until things are finally put to rest.

NHLPA associate counsel Stu Grimson and counsel Ian Penny will be tasked with running the operation on the day to day basis. We assume they will give a wide berth to the email program.

Of course Grimson is a familiar name for hockey fans, having been a player of the more physical nature during his playing days. Perhaps if he’d been tasked with patrolling the office with as much gusto as he did the ice, then things wouldn’t have reached the sad point that they are at today.

There are a good number of articles on the net about the issue. Some of the best are provided below.

Globe and Mail- Alan MakiSaskin placed on paid leave
Globe and Mail-David Shoalts-NHLPA probe must go beyond Saskin era
Detroit Free Press-Helen St. James-Saskin situation creates more questions
The National Post-Michael Traikos-Saskin's troubles fracturing one-time 'model union'
Slam Sports-David W. Unkle-Shake up at Player's Association
Toronto Star-Rick Westhead-Firing Saskin could be costly

Friday, March 09, 2007

All that’s missing is a secret police and a mystery island for the dissidents


The latest developments in the NHLPA leadership controversy have taken the backbiting and hostility towards Ted Saskin to new levels.

The embattled leader of the hockey union has never been fully accepted by his flock and lately the dissidents seem to be gaining the upper hand in their bid to declare his election null and void and seek a new vote.

What started out as a small grass fire off in the distance, is becoming more and more a roaring forest fire threatening to unravel the union and shake its very existence.

Of late those against the Saskin election have taken to comparing his reign with that of Alan Eagleson a name that doesn’t get mentioned much in hockey circles anymore lest someone get violent and rehash the old days of union management.

The most recent revelation of the affairs of the union state is beyond baffling and is by far the most serious of the long string of problems that have haunted the Saskin stewardship thus far. The Toronto Star reported a few days ago that the Toronto Police department was investigating claims that NHLPA executives had read and blocked e mail access to dissident members who had been outspoken against the current leadership group.

It’s that report that has put Saskin on the defensive, a situation that has him pointing the finger right back at Bob Goodenow his predecessor, replaced during a nasty little internal war at the NHLPA.

Goodenow speaking through his lawyer, fired right back that Saskin is wrong about his charges and that no such thing took place during his watch.

This latest bit of theatrics comes up just as the union’s thirty team reps prepare for a weekend conference call, a session in which Saskin’s status as director may be up for discussion and vote.

With all the backroom machinations and public posturing, the one question that the union reps need to ask themselves on Sunday is a simple one. Is the union concentrating its attention on the players and their needs or on far too many distractions?

Judging by the state of affairs of late, distraction seems to the way things are heading, a situation that won’t be of much use to the rank and file!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Saskin and Chelios at the Movies

The internal dispute within the NHLPA may be getting ready to heat up once again. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has some juicy information about yet more trouble in the house of labour at the NHLPA.

There is talk around the players that perhaps a re-examination is needed into the happenings that led to the appointment of Ted Saskin as director of the NHLPA. Making the rounds of the 700 NHL players' mail boxes in the next week will be competing DVD's which outline the positions of Saskin and those of the players that have never really accepted him as their leader.

That group seems to be using Chris Chelios as the point man, he is reportedly appearing in the renegade video in which his questions voiced last summer regarding Saskin's hiring are used to try and spur the membership onto a review.

That DVD will be followed up by one by Saskin himself where he tells his side of the seemingly never ending controversy.

While it wouldn't count as a groundswell of support yet, there are still enough questions and more than a few disillusioned association members out there that Saskin's hold on his organization may not be as strong as he thinks.

With a week off for all but the elite players of the league, those that don't escape to some sun spot destination with the family can fire up the ole DVD player and pop in some night time viewing.

We'll wait to see what genre the presentations are placed into, comedy, thriller or even murder mystery (well career wise anyways).