Two of hockey's most influential player agents are asking their clients to find out what led to Paul Kelly's firing as executive director of the NHL Players' Association.
J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson of CAA Hockey, who represent such marquee players as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, issued a statement last night expressing their concern for how Kelly was ousted on Aug. 31 after less than two years in office.
According to Barry and Brisson, they have had "numerous discussions with our clients and other players around the league" noting that "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," they added. "We believe that a strong and unified voice is necessary. In order for that to happen, the majority of players must be heard."
Kelly was fired during NHLPA meetings in Chicago. The 30-member executive board voted 22-5 in favour of removing Kelly. The vote was conducted via a secret ballot at roughly 3 a.m. ET after players were told the results of an internal review and how Kelly had requested the transcripts from a confidential players' meeting held previously in Las Vegas. Former Detroit Red Wings' defenceman Chris Chelios attended the Chicago meetings. He said once he returned to Detroit he was questioned by Red Wings' players who wanted to know why such an important decision was made without their knowledge or consent.
"They felt they should have been consulted first," Chelios said. "They felt I should have gotten the information, and brought it back to them then I could have taken their consensus back to the executive board. I couldn't agree more with my teammates."
Kelly had secured the transcript of the Las Vegas meeting to see if the players had violated their constitution by awarding a five-year contract to general counsel Ian Penny. Kelly is believed to have acknowledged he read the transcript to point out the players had violated their own constitution by not following the proper protocol.
The players and advisory board also commented on Kelly's leadership while he was absent from the Las Vegas meeting. There have been reports the players felt Kelly was too close to the NHL and had not done enough planning for negotiations on a new labour agreement.
Boston Bruins' defenceman Andrew Ference was involved in the review of Kelly and recently told The Globe and Mail there were issues of trust. Beyond that, he said: "We made the decision to take the high road and not air our dirty laundry. We decided to do things in a professional manner."
Asked if the PA was worried about a legal backlash from Kelly, Ference replied: "There are obviously legal issues whenever you terminate someone's contract. We're fully versed on all the options. It's something we hand off to the legal department."
The PA's constitution was rewritten after Ted Saskin's firing in 2007 to include higher accountability through an ombudsman and advisory board. The advisory board included former union leader Buzz Hargrove and Halifax lawyer Ron Pink, who was interested in replacing Saskin only to lose out to Kelly.