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Paul Kelly speaks after being named as the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association during a news conference in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Paul Kelly speaks after being named as the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association during a news conference in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Drama set to begin for NHLPA Add to ...

Upon further review, the NHL Players' Association is about to review itself.

Using an extra 72 hours to secure the necessary votes, the NHLPA Wednesday approved last Sunday's motion to investigate its internal operations and what lead to the firing of former executive director Paul Kelly.

A four-man review committee consisting of NHL veterans Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Mark Recchi and Rob Blake will interview NHLPA staff members to recommend changes and how best to mend the fractured union.

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It's going to be messy work considering how difficult it was to get a 23-4 vote, with three abstentions, in favour of the review.

During last Sunday's NHLPA conference call - on a night when every team in the league was off - only 22 of the 30 player representatives participated. That meant eight teams were either unavailable due to travel plans (such as the Vancouver Canucks) or skipped the call for whatever reason (Ottawa Senators).

When the player reps were asked last Sunday to vote on the motion of forming a review committee, the count was 17-4 in favour, with the St. Louis Blues abstaining. According to the NHLPA constitution, it takes 25 teams to form a quorum and 20 votes to pass a motion. It didn't get either that night.

That created a backlash of grumbling and complaints that teams were deliberately avoiding the call so as not to have a review. Several players worked the phones over the past two days in an effort to have the motion approved within an allowed 72 hours. The voting was completed in time, according to several sources.

The union responded yesterday, saying: "The NHLPA will not be commenting on this internal matter at this time."

Once the review committee begins its work there are certain to be bombshells dropped along the way.

For starters, the players are about to learn the legal opinion prepared by former Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry was costly in more ways than one. The report was McMurtry's stated belief the union had acted properly in terminating Kelly with cause, after it was learned Kelly had read a transcript from a players' private meeting.

The McMurtry report was later dismissed after it was noted he was friends with former NHLPA executive director Alan Eagleson, who was jailed for fraud after being prosecuted by Kelly, then-U.S. assistant district attorney in a grand jury investigation.

The McMurtry report also included e-mails Kelly wrote while with the NHLPA. Sources say the players were informed Kelly's private e-mails had been taken from the association's server system; others say the e-mails were downloaded without authorization.

For his efforts, McMurtry was paid $40,000 by the union.

The new review committee is also expected to examine its advisory board and ombudsman Buzz Hargrove and what roles they played in Kelly's firing. Two advisers (Dan O'Neill and George Cohen) are said to have left the board for outside reasons. Other changes may come.

As for Hargrove, there has been unrest among some players regarding statements he has made to the media defending his actions and the decision to fire Kelly - which is what he told the players he would do if he was in their position.

Follow on Twitter: @AllanMaki

 

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