The probe was announced Thursday in a release from a New York-based public relations company as players and officials were scattered across the continent following Wednesday night’s all-star game.
“This is an informative investigation that we feel will preserve the integrity of our NHLPA constitution and leadership process,” Mathieu Schneider, a Detroit Red Wings defenceman and interim NHLPA executive committee member, said in the release. “The purpose of the investigation is to clear the air, produce clarity on these questions and fortify a strong unified union.”
A conference call between Saskin and the executive board, which is made up of the seven-member executive committee and the player-rep from each of the 30 teams, was set for Thursday evening.
“The NHLPA will be conducting a previously scheduled conference call with the executive board this evening and therefore will be declining comment until that time,” said an NHLPA spokesman.
News of this latest challenge comes just three days after a lawsuit against Saskin and others was dismissed by a U.S. federal court in Illinois. The judge agreed with the NHLPA position that Ontario rather than Illinois should host such a lawsuit, if indeed it was even warranted.
A group of about 70 players led by Chris Chelios, Dwayne Roloson and Trent Klatt has sought Saskin’s removal as the NHLPA’s executive director ever since he took over from Bob Goodenow following the lockout.
Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco and Phoenix Coyotes forward Kevyn Adams, two other members of the NHLPA’s interim executive committee, both told The Canadian Press that the Chelios group is also driving this latest move.
Turco and Adams hope the probe will placate Chelios’ group and shut the door on what is becoming a never-ending saga.
“I hope it’s an end for some stubborn people,” said Turco. “I want everybody to know everything so guys are knowledgeable and if there’s any information to pass along to guys without it being hearsay, we’re all for that.
“We’d certainly like to end the bickering and get back to being a strong hockey union, which we were and should be.”
Added Adams: “I think a lot of the guys feel like, let’s get through this and move on. I don’t see a problem with getting answers because that’s good and healthy for everyone involved. But it has to be done the right way.”
The main bone of contention will be who conducts the investigation. The players who support Saskin want it run by a neutral third-party while Chelios’ group is said to favour their lawyer for the job.
“In think Ted would be very happy to have an investigation if that’s what the players want and be open to it,” said Adams. “But any responsible, rational person involved knows it would have to be a third party.
“It has to be that way.”
The investigation is the Chelios group’s latest attempt to ouster Saskin.
They have already forced a re-election on his approval as executive director after complaining that union regulations were violated in the initial vote, had a formal complaint shot down by the U.S. Department of Labor, and had their lawsuit rejected this week.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” said one player who supports Saskin. “We’ve already had all the questions answered several times. But if they want another investigation fine, as long as it done the right way.”