Skip to main content Blog: Hargrove tells his side of NHLPA story

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

In what can only be described as a shocking development, there’s something of a difference of opinion on a number of matters between some NHL Players’ Association insiders and former interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove.

Speaking Thursday for the first time since he resigned as interim ombudsman last Sunday – after claiming the NHLPA’s review committee of Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mark Recchi and Rob Blake, “shut down the ombudsmanship” – Hargrove had a much different interpretation of the events that led to executive director Paul Kelly’s firing and some of the events since then.

Those close to Kelly insist Hargrove resigned Sunday before a conference call among players in which he would have been fired, anyway. Some claim the players took umbrage to Hargrove’s role in Kelly’s firing, saying he was one of the instigators along with former general counsel/former interim executive director Ian Penny and former ombudsman Eric Lindros.

(Note to reader: You’re going to see the word “former” and “interim” a lot of times in this piece.)

First, on the notion that he jumped ship before being pushed off the plank: “That was not a concern at all. As a matter of fact, if somebody had told me I was going to get fired, I probably wouldn’t have resigned. I would have stayed back and fought. That’s some of the rhetoric that a small number of people have spread. If you say you’re going to fire him, what are you going to fire him for? What would be the reasoning?”

Well, now that you mention it, Buzz, there’s the notion out there that you were one of the ringleaders of the cabal that pushed so hard to fire Kelly and you were a key player in pushing a bunch of exhausted player representatives into voting on the issue at 3:00 a.m., instead of waiting until the next morning.

Both falsehoods, Hargrove claims.

Hargrove’s version of the events was that, in his post as (former) interim ombudsman, he received a complaint that (former) executive director Kelly had looked at the minutes of a meeting to which he wasn’t privy. The long-serving president of the Canadian Auto Workers union investigated what happened and presented his findings to the executive board, which is made up of the 30 player representatives.

“I reported my findings to the board without any recommendations,” Hargrove said. “In retrospect, I’m not sure I would say the same thing again, but somebody on the board asked me, ‘If this happened in your former organization, what action would be taken?’ and I said ‘Anyone who violates the confidence and trust of the board, including the national president, would have been fired.’ ”

Hargrove’s take on what happened that night in Chicago when the knives came out for Kelly is also much different than what is being circulated by the pro-Kelly group. One of them insisted to me that Hargrove was banging his fist on the table insisting the executive board fire Kelly.

“Absolutely not true,” Hargrove said. “I was called in at about 1:30 in the morning to give my report on my findings and I was called in once more at about three o’clock along with Paul Kelly and Ian Penny where they raised a number of questions with all three of us to clarify points. I never once talked to one player. I made my report, they asked me to leave and I left. I didn’t even know the decision had been made. I’m told it was made at 3:30 a.m., and I was in the lobby with a number of other people waiting for the decision and waiting for the meeting to end, until 4:30. The meeting had ended and the players had left through another door and we were still waiting for the meeting to end.

“So that was an absolute lie. Anyone who says I encouraged the decision for the discharge or encouraged the board to make a decision that night, that’s an absolute out-and-out lie.”

Well, somebody is spinning his own version of the truth here, which makes it even more vital for the review committee to conduct an unbiased review of exactly what happened. You have former interim this-and-thats dropping like flies, allegations that the review committee is overstepping its bounds and everyone involved accusing each other of treachery.

“There are a lot of wonderful people (at the NHLPA) and there’s a very small number of people with their own agendas,” Hargrove said. “They have agendas that are more focused on revenge than the good of the organization. And until they get out from under that, they’re going to continue to have problems. I’m not naming anybody, but there is a small number of people that didn’t support the termination of Paul Kelly and they’ve been very vocal, very clear that they weren’t happy.”

As first reported by, Kontinental League president Alexander Medvedev and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met Wednesday in Washington to try to iron out their 3,567,324 differences.

After the meeting, the KHL described the proceedings as follows: “The two sides reached an understanding of the need, using political terminology, to reset and upgrade their relationship. As a result, moving forward, designated representatives of the KHL and NHL will work in a spirit of collaboration to thoroughly analyze all issues between the leagues and identify mutually acceptable and beneficial solutions.”

That kind of gobbledygook tells us absolutely nothing was accomplished and according to those close to the situation, that was exactly the case.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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