“The 30 player reps will run the program,” Eric Lindros said Friday as three days of NHLPA meetings wrapped up. “Below it will be the executive director and the general counsel.”
Nothing is etched in stone at this point, Lindros quickly added, but the union is undergoing a massive reshaping of its power structure and constitution.
“We need to govern ourselves as the players move forward,” said Lindros, a member of the NHLPA’s constitutional committee who has devoted his entire summer to the cause. “The constitution used to be two pages. We’re up to somewhere between 15 and 16 pages.”
All of which comes as a result of the turmoil that’s plagued the union over the last two years, highlighted by Ted Saskin’s hiring and firing as executive director.
More than 60 players heard from Toronto lawyer Sheila Block on Thursday night as she explained her findings after an exhaustive investigation into Bob Goodenow’s firing as executive director, Saskin’s subsequent hiring and also how the union came to sign off on the current collective bargaining agreement that includes a salary cap.
The much-anticipated report from Block doesn’t apparently include any juicy new details, according to players to have read it, but rather officially confirms what’s already been out there – that Saskin was improperly hired and that the constitution wasn’t followed.
“That’s exactly what it is, it’s pretty much all or our concerns being confirmed,” said Edmonton Oilers player rep Shawn Horcoff, also a member of the union’s search committee for a new leader. “It’s nice that the whole membership is privy to it now and has seen what has gone on – and knows that the right thing was done in getting rid of Ted and that we’re moving on in the right direction.”
Added Detroit Red Wings player rep Chris Chelios, who led the fight against Saskin: “(The Block report) I don’t think is any different than what’s been reported over the last year and a half, it’s just a matter of getting it out (to the players).”
Saskin was fired in May over allegations he instructed the reading of players’ NHLPA e-mails. That prompted an internal investigation by Toronto lawyer Chris Paliare specifically into the e-mail controversy, a report that was handed down late last season. Paliare spoke to players on Friday morning.
Between the Paliare and Block reports, the players have realized they must pay better attention to what’s going on within their union.
“The way that business is done at the ‘PA is going to change from here on in,” said Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden. “That’s the probably the most important thing that’s come out of this – to learn from this and not let it happen again.”
For that to happen, the players must become more involved.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” said Los Angeles Kings player rep Mike Cammalleri. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we walk away from this with – a little bit more involvement and a little more caring can really make us a great union.”
Anaheim Ducks defenceman Mathieu Schneider, who helped Chelios in the fight against Saskin, left this week’s meetings never feeling better about where things were headed.
“After leaving here today I’ve never been more proud to be a member of the NHL Players’ Association,” he said. “I think we’re stronger and we’re going to come out of this as united as we’ve ever been.”
The search continues for Saskin’s replacement and Chelios said a new executive director could be in place within two months although in the end there is no real time line.
“It won’t be too long before we have a leader again,” added Horcoff.
There’s no shortage of people interested in the job.
“I was very pleased to hear the quality of people that have responded and the shear number is overwhelming,” said Schneider. “I think there were over 100 candidates that have expressed sincere interest in the position.”
A new leader will soon be in place, so will a new constitution. The NHLPA believes it has turned the corner in one of its darkest periods.
“We’re putting a black mark in history behind us now and moving forward,” said Horcoff.