by PuckStopsHere on 08/31/09 at 12:47 PM ET
The history of the NHLPA just took another odd turn. Paul Kelly, the NHLPA head has been fired. This comes less than two years into his run and before he had the opportunity to put a significant imprint on the organization. From the point of view of an outside observer, it looked like he was doing a good job to set up the player`s union to stand up to the owners and being careful to pick his battles so that the most effort was taken on important issues. The main negative in his run had been the departure of ombudsman Eric Lindros . Lindros was upset that he was not given the chance to air his grievances about Kelly`s job performance (which as an ombudsman is Lindros` job). Kelly made ill-advised comments about looking forward to the day when the NHLPA does not need an ombudsman.
In order to legitimize the NHLPA Ombudsman position, Canadian union veteran Buzz Hargrove took the position.
There was a review of Paul Kelly`s job at the 2009 NHLPA meetings as there should have been. With a stronger ombudsman, the possibility of Kelly`s review ending up in his termination should be a possibility. Of course that should only happen if Kelly is clearly doing a poor job and he isn`t.
Kelly was fired. The reasons for this seem to have nothing to do with Paul Kelly. They have to do with the NHLPA. The NHLPA has a very small membership that is actually interested in what it does. The few players who take an interest in its politics generally hold extreme (as opposed to mainstream) opinions. Many of the other player`s opinions are fed to them second hand by player agents and others who have hidden agendas. The reason Paul Kelly was dismissed is that the NHLPA is fractured. There are many dissenting opinions among the few who maintain interest in its day-to-day activities. The ombudsman position created a serious avenue to review the NHLPA head and the few interested bodies took it over. The vast majority of the NHLPA has no interest in seeing Paul Kelly removed. They have no interest in anything but preparing for the 2009/10 season.
The NHLPA took a big step backwards today. They will likely be less prepared for a battle with the owners when the CBA comes due. They may be forced to accept whatever the owners want. As long as the NHLPA remains this fractured, the owners have a free run over the labor wars and the players will be forced to accept a smaller say in the NHL business and a smaller piece of the pie financially.
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