Thursday, September 17, 2009
Updated: September 18, 1:37 PM ET
Concerns raised about players' union
By Pierre LeBrun
The fallout from Paul Kelly's firing as head of the NHL Players' Association continued Thursday night with one of the sport's most powerful player agencies releasing a statement voicing its concerns with the recent goings-on at the union.
"We have had numerous discussions with our clients and other players around the league regarding the dismissal of Paul Kelly as executive director of the NHLPA," J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson of CAA Sports said in a statement.
"Some of the things we have learned about the process are very troubling to us. We are encouraging each of our clients to educate themselves with union matters so they can understand how these types of decisions are reached. We believe that a strong and unified voice is necessary. In order for that to happen, the majority of players must be heard."
Barry and Brisson represent the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Mats Sundin, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Briere, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
"I would just say that I agree with Pat's comments and that I definitely want to know how things happened," Crosby said in a statment Friday morning. "I am part of the union like every other player and I think we all deserve a good explanation."
Hall of Fame player Bobby Orr also voiced his concerns to ESPN.com earlier this month about the manner in which Kelly was fired. He heads the Orr Hockey Group, which represents a number of NHL players.
Veteran Chris Chelios, who was one of the 30 player reps in the room when Kelly was fired more than two weeks ago, also agreed with CAA's statement.
"I couldn't agree with them more," Chelios, a free agent who still acts as the player rep for the Red Wings, told ESPN.com on Thursday night. "I say that after speaking with the Red Wings players with Detroit. They're upset with how quickly it happened in one meeting and that they didn't have a say in it. We want transparency. The players in Detroit were surprised and disappointed. I'm speaking on behalf of them. They can't believe they didn't have a say in this."
Chelios stressed the importance of the next executive board meeting, since the 30 player reps will have collected feedback from their teammates during training camp.
"Now that the players have had to chance to talk about it, I think Sept. 28 is the next player rep conference call and that's really the first chance for us to get together and talk about the feedback they got," Chelios said.
Kelly was fired after a controversial internal office review produced criticism of his managerial skills and after Kelly told players he had read parts of a transcript of an in-camera meeting from which he was excluded during players' meetings in Las Vegas in June. Kelly told players he had asked to see the transcript after a number of players expressed concern to him that the union's constitution may have been breached by union officials, including general counsel Ian Penny, members of the NHLPA's advisory board and some player representatives.
The 30 player representatives, which make up the executive board, voted 22-5 to dismiss Kelly.
One of the criticisms leveled at the union was that the 30 player reps didn't go back and check with their respective teammates before making a blanket decision, although, according to the NHLPA's new constitution, the executive board was well within its rights to vote on the spot.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.