The National Hockey League Players' Association is starting to give banana republics a bad name.
Yet again, the association's executive board met via conference call to discuss leadership issues, and yet again it was presented with another resignation, this one from Buzz Hargrove.
The former Ontario labour leader resigned as NHLPA ombudsman prior to the conference call last night, completing a series of resignations that has left the association without its interim executive director and general counsel, its outside counsel, its advisory board and now its ombudsman - its second ombudsman in less than a year.
Hargrove, who was being paid more than $100,000 for his role, was one of several NHLPA officials who helped oust former executive director Paul Kelly, who had been on the job less than two years before being fired Aug. 31. Kelly's removal created an angry split among the players and resulted in the formation of a four-man review committee consisting of veterans Rob Blake, Mark Recchi, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios.
The review committee's appointment and plans to investigate the NHLPA resulted in Ian Penny resigning as Kelly's interim replacement. All those who have resigned in the past two weeks are not likely to answer questions raised by investigators hired by the review committee.
In last night's call, the committee was slated to outline its investigation plans. Ottawa lawyer David Scott and Navigant Consulting Inc. had been approached by review committee members and may conduct the investigation.
One of the most contentious matters is whether Chelios, who played a significant role in the firing of former executive director Ted Saskin, should continue as a member of the review committee. Some within the NHLPA believe Chelios, who's playing in the AHL this season, is leading the charge to find out how Kelly was fired as "a personal vendetta."
"Chelios wanted Kelly hired," a source said. "The committee said, 'Simply, all we want to do is know how Paul Kelly got fired. What happened next? The review committee tells the divisional reps, 'Do not do any further work.' The advisory board is told not to have any contact with the player reps and to cease operations. The ombudsman is told, 'Don't do anything.' "The question is: Who gave them the authority to basically take over the PA? Where did that come from?"
Various sources have said there are player agents involved in directing things behind the scenes while the NHLPA spins wildly out of control.