An explosive day for the NHLPA began with published reports saying former executive director Paul Kelly read confidential minutes of a June meeting in which his leadership was criticized. And it got hotter with Glenn Healy's resignation as director of player affairs and the reasons behind his quitting the union, including what he says was criticism of retired superstars Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Sources say Kelly disclosed at the executive board meeting Sunday in Chicago that he read the minutes but explained to the players he felt duty-bound to do so in the wake of the Las Vegas player meetings in June when he was approached by union members. Sources say the players expressed concern the NHLPA's constitution had been violated based on union business being conducted with Kelly excluded from a meeting which included the ombudsman, the advisory board and executive board.
Kelly said in a statement today that allegations his actions constituted a breach of his duties to the NHLPA are a "false" and a "misleading attack" on his character and reputation.
The NHLPA fired Ted Saskin in 2007, in part, for gaining unauthorized access to player e-mails.
Early this afternoon, Healy resigned, saying his credibility was undermined by an internal report and comments made by interim executive director Ian Penny in Chicago. In his letter of resignation, Healy said the report indicated he misled the players and did not tell them the "full truth"
"These accusations were made because of comments that I have made to players, in particular about Wayne Gretzky and his contributions and personal sacrifices for the players' association,” Healy wrote. “When Wayne Gretzky joined our group licensing agreement in 1992, it made the Players' Association millions of dollars, has allowed the PA to stand on its own, and allowed every player to prosper. (Ian Penny) openly disagreed with my defence of Wayne Gretzky and proceeded to openly criticize Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux in front of the executive board, advisory board, players' association employees, the ombudsman, and the great man who started this very association, Ted Lindsay. I would never and have not misled or told any untruths to any player."
Penny denied Healy's assertions in a statement:
"There is no merit to Glenn's claim that I was critical of the contributions that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux made to the NHLPA. I have the utmost respect for what both players contributed as union members and as two of the sport's greatest stars. It is unfortunate and disappointing that Glenn took my comments out of context. Based on the timing it appears that this was part of a strategy to deflect attention from today's media reports concerning Paul Kelly's conduct."
New Jersey Devils' executive board member David Clarkson reacted negatively to Healy's departure.
"Whatever he believes, he stands for," Clarkson told Toronto radio station AM 640. "I'm a big supporter of his and a big fan of his and I was pretty upset today when I got that (letter). I would do anything for Glenn Healy. I actually called him and spoke to him. I thanked him and wished him all the best."
Sources say the NHLPA is assessing its next move in terms of negotiating a settlement with Kelly who, himself, has been meeting with lawyers in the Boston area to determine his next move.