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Dreger: Crosby, Blake seek information on Kelly's firing

Darren Dreger
9/18/2009 6:37:23 PM
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Reaction to Paul Kelly's firing as executive director of the NHLPA continues, more than two weeks after his early morning dismissal in a Chicago boardroom.

NHL player agents J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson of CAA Hockey have tried to make sense of Kelly's fall, specifically the process in which it unfolded, to help the players they represent understand the sudden change in union leadership.

However, Brisson and Barry who represent a number of NHL stars including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Dany Heatley, Daniel Briere and Mats Sundin, plus NHLPA executive board members, Robyn Regehr, Shawn Horcoff and Maxime Talbot, believe the "process" in which Kelly was fired was flawed.

The veteran player agents today issued a statement, outlining their concerns.

"We have had numerous discussions with our clients and other players around the League regarding the dismissal of Paul Kelly as Executive Director of the NHLPA.  Some of the things we have learned about the process are very troubling to us. We are encouraging each of our clients to educate themselves with union matters so they can understand how these types of decision are reached.  We believe that a strong and unified voice is necessary.  In order for that to happen, the majority of players must be heard." - J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson, CAA Hockey

On Friday, Crosby released a statement to ESPN expressing his concern.

"I would just say that I agree with Pat's comments and that I definitely want to know how things happened," Crosby told ESPN. "I am part of the union like every other player and I think we all deserve a good explanation."

Add veteran defenceman Rob Blake's name to the list of NHL players eager to learn more about Paul Kelly's firing and why the PA's full membership wasn't included in such a significant shift in leadership.

"I don't think we can make decisions of that magnitude without complete involvement," Blake told TSN.

"It's going to take further discussion and investigation, but the timing was questionable.  Had they (executive board) waited a few more weeks, teams would have been in camp and the players would have been easily accessible," Blake added.

Blake applauds Sidney Crosby and any young player who steps forward in search of information.

"They have a lot to gain from the players association and many of them will control the league.  Crosby and other young stars need to understand and have their voices heard, so this is nice to see."

The current NHLPA constitution doesn't require the full memberships involvement.

The vote to dethrone Paul Kelly was determined by the 30 NHL player reps who make up the PA's executive board.

Veteran NHL defenceman Chris Chelios is a member of the executive board and he echoes Brisson and Barry's issues with how Kelly was let go.

"I agree that our abrupt vote was questionable without being able to explain our position to our teammates," Chelios told TSN.

"But, at the end of the day, we had advisors and PA staff and not once did they say...we need to wait.  There's no doubt the procedure was questionable," Chelios added.

Chelios says his Red Wings teammates were very unhappy over the fact they weren't consulted before the board made it's move.

"As a player rep, my role is to gather information and report back to my team.  Following that I speak to the board  on behalf of my team and in this case, we didn't do that."

Chelios acknowledges he played a key role in bringing Paul Kelly in to the players association and recognizes the vote to have him fired included 22 in favour of the change; a sound majority.

However, his experience tells him more time was needed to make such a significant decision.

"We've been down this road before.  We should have been more patient,"Chelios concluded.

Chelios believes the NHLPA may require some structural changes to give the next executive director more flexibility to do his job.

But Toronto Maple Leafs player representative Matt Stajan is confident the executive board made the right decision based on the facts of the situation.

"We had everything laid out in front of us," Stajan told AM640 Radio in Toronto on Friday. "I'm fully confident we made the right decision. I don't think anything I hear can change that."

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