When Steve Larmer resigned on the weekend he bid farewell with a warning.
The former National Hockey League Players' Association advisory board member, one of several who quit his post beginning last Friday, informed the league's 700-plus players that "certain players with the assistance of their agents have, in a sense, hijacked the union" and that former executive director Paul Kelly may be involved in directing the pending investigation of the NHLPA office.
Larmer, who resigned from the NHlPA in 2005 only to be lured back, took direct aim at the four-man review committee launching the investigation, which will include the events leading to Kelly's firing on Aug. 31.
Joining Larmer with the same complaints was another former NHL player and advisory board member, Ken Baumgartner, who wrote in his resignation e-mail: "Ask whether the players and their advisers taking you down this dangerous path have ulterior motives. Revenge? Personal ambitions? Attempts to save face?"
Larmer and Baumgartner were moved to respond after NHLPA general counsel and interim executive director Ian Penny left office last week, saying he had been constructively dismissed. That set off a rush of resignations that reduced the eight-man advisory board to one member - ombudsman Buzz Hargrove. Outside legal counsel Paul Cavalluzzo also resigned.
Over the weekend, Mike Ouellet, the NHLPA's chief of business affairs, was asked to take over the duties of executive director with Roland Lee as general counsel. The appointments were made by the four-man review committee of Rob Blake, Mark Recchi, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios, who was singled out in Larmer's resignation e-mail.
Larmer accused Chelios of leading "a charge for what appears to be a personal grudge for terminating Paul Kelly whom he fully supports." Larmer also wrote: "It is my understanding that ... Kelly has communicated with Chris Chelios and Shawn Horcroff and others directing them to investigate the affairs of the PA. They have effectively taken it upon themselves to suspend the office of the ombudsman, the divisional player reps and the advisory board. For what purpose?"
Chelios, who now plays for the AHL's Chicago Wolves, was unavailable for comment. However, the review committee circulated its own e-mail yesterday to the 30-member executive board saying it was disappointed by Larmer's suggestions and was indeed conducting business according to the NHLPA's constitution.
"The suggestion that Chris Chelios is dictating the terms of the review committee is a bit insulting to all of us," stated the review committee e-mail. "Many of you know us well and we want to assure you that our sole purpose is to help to rebuild the association and avoid the dysfunction that has plagued the association starting with Eric Lindros' resignation, Paul Kelly's firing and the recent resignations."
Review committee members were to meet today with "one of the world's leading forensic review firms and two of Canada's leading lawyers." Those retained will conduct the actual investigation.
"The review committee isn't asking any questions," a source said. "The committee is going to hire independent people and stand back and let them do the investigation. And on the face of that people are resigning? What does that tell you?"