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Paul Kelly is out as executive director of the NHL Players' Association. (Paul Chiasson/CP)
Paul Kelly is out as executive director of the NHL Players' Association. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Snooping might have cost Kelly's job Add to ...

One of the prime reasons Paul Kelly was fired as NHLPA executive director is that he was allegedly caught reading a transcript from a confidential meeting between the union's advisory board and 30-member player executive last June.

Kelly, who ran the National Hockey League Players' Association for just 22 months, was sacked after a lengthy 11-hour meeting that ended in the wee hours of Monday morning in Chicago.

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The players were asked not to reveal any details of Kelly's removal until a severance package is worked out and each NHL player had a chance to discuss the developments with his player representative as to why - by a vote of 22-5 (three players did not vote) - the decision was made to oust Kelly.

Some details began to leak out yesterday, including charges that Kelly peeked at a confidential transcript from a private session at the NHLPA summer meetings in Las Vegas two months ago.

The players were burned by the previous executive director Ted Saskin, who was fired after allegations that he monitored players' e-mails for personal gain. So after learning about Kelly's actions, mixed in with other concerns, they felt they could no longer trust him after he read the minutes of the private session.

When an executive board member was contacted yesterday to confirm the private session was part of the reason for Kelly's dismissal, the phone line went silent. He then said, "The players have agreed not to say anything." The player was given a chance to refute the story and did not deny the allegations.

Private or in-camera meetings are a common practice with companies or businesses that are run by a board.

The main purpose of the Las Vegas meeting was to discuss Kelly's leadership. There were concerns and issues that emerged at the executive board's annual meetings in Chicago a year ago, and resurfaced with the resignation of Eric Lindros as the union's newly created ombudsman earlier this year.

There were no other NHLPA staff members in the meeting. The executive board, however, did discuss and unanimously approve a five-year contract extension for general counsel Ian Penny, who was at odds with Kelly.

A written communication had gone out to the executive board members prior the get together about Penny's possible contract extension.

Once Kelly was allowed back in the room and found out that the executive board approved a new contract for Penny, he told the players that they circumvented the NHLPA's new constitution.

So with Kelly in attendance, the executive board debated the pros and cons of the Penny extension, voted again and unanimously approved the five-year pact.

In the three days since the showdown in Chicago, in which Penny was appointed as the interim executive director, no player has stepped up to state his displeasure with the removal of Kelly and possible cost of such a move.

Kelly had three years left on his deal that pays him about $1.75-million (all currency U.S.) annually, which included a floating bonus. The NHLPA also paid off the final two years of former executive director Bob Goodenow's $2.5-million- a-year deal when he was forced to resign on July 28, 2005. Saskin took home roughly $400,000 in a negotiated settlement with the NHLPA after being fired.

Kelly made himself available to a few media outlets yesterday. He said that under legal advice he could not get into the specifics of what transpired in Chicago. He also took the high road, stating that he enjoyed his time working for the players and tried to look after the best interest of the players.

The most damaging shot he fired back at his former employers was the difficulty to perform his job when he served so many masters, meaning not only the players and the player executive board, but the advisory board, too.

He also was asked if he should have hired his own people when he was placed in charge of the NHLPA in October of 2007.

"I'm not the type of person who walks into a job and brings in my own folks," Kelly told Toronto radio station Fan 590. "I'm a person who tries to treat people with dignity and respect, and give everybody an opportunity to demonstrate what they bring to the table.

"I quickly learned that we had a terrific, youthful, committed, energetic staff. I promoted a lot of those people. I know, in retrospect, some have said that maybe I should have surrounded myself with loyal people and that I might have been better off. Maybe that's true. But that's one thing I don't regret."

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