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A smoking gun or a smokescreen?

After several days of mysterious silence in the wake of Paul Kelly’s firing, the Globe and Mail reported Thursday the former NHL Players’ Association executive director had allegedly been caught reading the transcript of a confidential meeting between the union’s advisory board and its executive committee that addressed Kelly’s leadership. Kelly fired back, defending his honesty and integrity, steadfastly denying the accusations.

Now that the wind has started to blow, perhaps the dominoes will start to fall. We should start to discover whether the case has been cracked; whether the union’s actions finally make sense; or whether this truly was a palace coup devoid of just cause.

Regardless of what transpires, the NHLPA is at a crossroads. Where does it go for its next head?

Does it try to find another moderate, in the Kelly mold, who will work in its best interest, but still be able to seek common ground in an era that demands NHL-union partnership? Or does it opt for a Bob Goodenow clone, an old-school negotiator who thrives on confrontation and beating ’em in the alleys?

As the players’ executive navel gazes on this philosophical question, they should also ask themselves about public perception. They should do some soul-searching and decide whether what Joe Fan and John Media thinks is of consequence entering the next round of collective bargaining agreement talks.

If they feel it is, they can’t reach back to their past.

Contrary to what some have opined, I believe the union has a legitimate opportunity to win substantial support prior to and during the next CBA showdown. Think about it – the NHL has set the ’PA up as sweetly as Gretzky used to saucer passes to Kurri.

During the lockout of 2005, we were told – repeatedly – a system of cost certainty would fix everything that ails the league financially. The owners forfeited a season to secure this win. The collateral damage was significant – lost jobs, diminished interest in the U.S. and plenty of heartache and stress. We haven’t forgotten 2004-05 and we’re painfully aware the new CBA is not living up to its promise.

The Phoenix mess, meantime, has further shredded the league’s credibility. It denied, denied, denied there was a problem. Turns out, there’s a problem.

So the next time the NHL tells us it needs further restrictions and modifications to cost certainty to attain Utopia, on what basis do we trust it? Because the owners really, really mean it this time?

The league’s tattered trustworthiness presents the players with a glorious opportunity to make headway in a propaganda campaign, a war Goodenow had zero interest participating in. If the union opts for one of his disciples, more fools them.

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears regularly in the off-season.

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News


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