Former NHLPA president Trevor Linden says he still supports Ted Saskin

“I’m a big supporter of Ted,” Linden said Monday after the Vancouver Canucks skated at their Burnaby, B.C., practice facility. “I think he’s a quality individual and can do a very good job for our group. I thought that all along.

“I think the executive committee that recommended him to the board felt strongly in that and that’s why we did what we did.”

The NHL player representatives voted Sunday evening to have Saskin and senior director Ken Kim placed on paid leaves of absence effective immediately.

During their leave, the NHLPA executive board will retain outside counsel to address allegations made against Saskin and Kim and determine whether they have grounds to dismiss both Saskin and Kim from future compensation.

The players vote was prompted by allegations that Saskin ordered the monitoring of NHLPA player e-mails. The e-mail system the players use is administered by the union.

Linden called the most recent controversy surrounding Saskin “unfortunate timing.”

“I didn’t expect this and I don’t know much about it,” he said.

Still, Linden refused to say he felt betrayed by Saskin.

“I think there is more to the story and you have to understand that,” Linden said. “I don’t think you can pass judgement until you understand the full story behind it.

“I’m not going to pass judgment until I know all the facts.”

Linden even seemed to offer an explanation to why players’ e-mail may have been monitored.

“I knew that there were a lot of sensitive documents being leaked to the media a year and half ago,” he said. “I’m not sure if this has something to do with that.

“I knew there were some agents and some players leaking documents.”

Linden and Saskin have been credited for ending the lockout which wiped out the 2004-05 season and resulted in the new collective bargaining agreement. Linden stepped down last summer as the union president.

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Linden also was part of the group that recommended Saskin take over as the NHLPA’s executive director after Bob Goodenow resigned.

The way Saskin was hired angered a group of players within the union, prompting lawsuits and allegations of wrong doing.

Linden said hiring Saskin was the right decision, since he understood the complexity of the collective bargaining agreement and where the NHL found its revenue streams.

“It takes a pretty special individual to be able to go through that stuff and understand it,” said Linden.

“The executive acted on the best interests of the players. I think the executive felt very strongly we needed to go in a new direction. Ted was the right guy to take our group forward. That’s why we recommended him to the board and that’s why he was supported in a secret ballot.

“It’s unfortunate the constant allegations and lawsuits started. I don’t think any of it has any merit.”

While Linden seemed unwavering in his support of Saskin, his teammate Brendan Morrison was more cautious.

Morrison, the Canucks players’ representative, called the e-mail allegations against Saskin disturbing.

“Morally it’s a little disturbing when you have guys looking over your personal business,” he said.

Morrison disagreed with suggestions the entire NHLPA needs revamping.

“I don’t think you have to completely rebuild the whole foundation,” he said. “We have a lot of good people working for us.

“People have done a good job building the game over the last few years and finding different revenues streams. (The union needs) some tweaking definitely and transparency in everything that is done.”