Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference finds it "laughable" that he's being labelled an Eric Lindros ally and key player in a coup d'état-like ousting of former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly.
The 30-year-old Ference addressed several issues yesterday and revealed something that was not widely known - that the vote to fire Kelly held on Aug. 31 in Chicago was done by a secret ballot so the 30 members of the National Hockey League Players' Association executive board could vote freely.
"I don't know where [sports writers]are coming up with [their]assumptions," Ference said. "Of course I spoke [at the meeting] I was part of a 30-person board and part of the four-man group [that reviewed Kelly's work] What was left out was that we took a secret-ballot vote. That was urged on by Robyn Regehr and myself because I've been in meetings with a mob mentality where hands go up and guys feel they have to do the same. We did a secret ballot vote so nobody felt pressured."
The secret ballot produced a 22-5 vote in favour of dismissing Kelly after less than two years on the job. The vote was held at roughly 3 a.m. EDT following an 11-hour meeting.
During the weekend sessions leading up to the vote, the players were also advised by Donald Fehr, the outgoing executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Fehr told the players they had to make a statement to the media, which they did. Ference said the executive board has been more concerned with talking to its fellow players than worrying about the media backlash - and the backlash has been stinging.
Retired NHLer Jeremy Roenick recently blasted the NHLPA for making "a mockery of itself" and suggested the players were largely uneducated and inexperienced in labour matters, and thus easily manipulated.
Yesterday, Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin, as he continued to push for the NHL competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics, said he was fine with the decision to remove Kelly but wanted more information from the Capitals' player representative Brooks Laich.
Sources have also spoken of Kelly reading a confidential transcript from a private meeting between the NHLPA executive board and the advisory board and how that raised suspicions. Kelly wanted the transcript to see if the players had violated their constitution by awarding a five-year contract to general counsel Ian Penny without Kelly being present.
The players and advisory board commented on Kelly's leadership in their meeting while Kelly was absent. Issues such as Kelly's supposed lack of planning for negotiations on a new collective agreement with the NHL, along with his relationship with various NHLPA staffers, were discussed. All of that was brought up in Chicago.
"If the CEO of IBM has leadership issues, trust issues, issues in the office, it's a no-brainer. You pull the trigger because it's not working," Ference said. "It's very frustrating. The last thing you want is turmoil. It would be great if everything ran well and people were happy. Even if things weren't great, it would have been easy to say, 'Let's leave it alone and let them figure it out.' But that would be far from doing the right thing.
"We made the decision to take the high road and not air our dirty laundry. We decided to do things in a professional manner ... I'm not into he said/she said. I was in the room. I know the facts. When we present our teammates with the facts they're very supportive. That's all that matters to me."
Kelly's response via e-mail was, "I am not going to engage in a public debate with Andrew Ference, who will be judged by his own actions."
The NHLPA has yet to set up a search committee for its newest executive director.