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NHL Players' Association ombudsman Buzz Hargrove spoke out yesterday saying if he'd been a member of the executive board he would have voted to fire former executive director Paul Kelly.

Speaking to radio station AM640 in Toronto, Hargrove, the former Ontario labour leader, insisted Kelly's reading of a confidential transcript of a players-only meeting was a serious issue that justified the executive's Aug. 31 decision to oust him.

"He could have waited and asked permission to access those minutes. But he didn't do any of those things," Hargrove said of Kelly. "When a staff member at the office tells you that this is wrong what you're doing here - similar to the [Ted]Saskin situation - don't do this."

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Saskin was fired as executive director in 2007 for allegedly accessing the players' private e-mails. Kelly was then hired and fired after only 22 months in office.

Hargrove was appointed ombudsman after Eric Lindros resigned from the post saying he had differences of "transparency" with Kelly. Hargrove said it was "utter nonsense" he was out to get Kelly fired and also defended Roy McMurtry's legal opinion that Kelly deserved to be terminated with cause.

McMurtry was asked by PA legal counsel Ian Penny to review the Kelly situation. McMurtry was a former associate of Alan Eagleson, the PA executive director who was prosecuted by Kelly for fraud and embezzlement in 1998. Hargrove criticized Russ Conway's book, Game Misconduct , which outlined various aspects of the McMurtry-Eagleson friendship.

"If the book had been truthful, Roy McMurtry would never have been named a provincial judge, a chief justice and all of the other positions - the Order of Canada - that he has received," Hargrove said. "Even if I have read the book, I don't think that would have interfered with the judgment of Roy McMurtry."

Hargrove did offer one rebuke of the PA's executive board.

"The most troubling part of all of this is the misinformation out there. A lot of it can be attributed to [the NHLPA] I tried to talk to the executive ... to be perfectly open and to have a press conference as to what exactly happened. They made a decision not to do that."

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Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. More

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