Union gains support from some players, but not Roenick Staff

9/4/2009 4:29:03 PM

While some players came out in support of the union today, recently retired NHL veteran Jeremy Roenick pulled no punches in discussing the NHLPA's dismissal earlier this week of former Executive Director Paul Kelly.

Speaking on Leafs Lunch on AM 640 with TSN's Darren Dreger and Bill Watters, Roenick addressed what he felt was poor treatment of Kelly by the Players' Association.

"I feel bad for Paul. I think that the way that they treated him was not right, and not fair," said Roenick. "They had him sitting out drinking coffee until four in the morning while they pow-wowed. I think the disrespect to Paul was very evident.

"There is sort of an underlying power in the NHLPA that wants to take over," continued Roenick. "I don't think Paul Kelly was doing a bad job, he was obviously very well qualified. Is the PA nervous about whether he can handle maybe a future lockout or a future strike, if that's the case? This has been very premature."

In contrast, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson expressed a different view of the events that led to the dismissal of Kelly.

"I have confidence in the executive committee that they're doing the right thing for us," said Alfredsson on Friday. "Hopefully this is something we'll look back on and be happy about the decision that we made.

"The easier thing to do would have been to go along like nothing had happened, but if they feel that there needs to be a change, now is the time," added Alfredsson.

Roenick also attacked the anonymous letter that was sent to reporters this week, which was reportedly written by someone close to the union, and which contained comments that were critical of Kelly.

"(The anonymous letter) isn't cowardly, it's chicken sh--.  I specifically said to myself that there is a 'me' entity to this, and I don't know where it's stemming from," said Roenick.

The 20-year NHL veteran was asked about the 30-man executive committee that ultimately voted to remove Kelly. The lack of a full membership vote on the removal of its leader has been questioned this week, and Roenick was asked how he would feel if, as a regular player (not a player representative), he was told about the removal of Kelly without having his opinion solicited first.

"I'd be pissed. I would say something and I would try to get as many guys as I possibly could to fight the system," said Roenick. "That's been the problem with the NHLPA for many years - it's been a very small clique that have tried to make all the decisions, and the decisions that are made are not unanimous decisions by the union.

"It's unfortunate that the NHLPA continues to make a mockery of itself and take away its credibility by doing things that are very ... there's one group who is trying to control it."

NHL veteran Olli Jokinen of the Calgary Flames, though, said he was okay with the way decisions were made in Chicago.

"That's why every team chooses a player rep and you put all the trust on those guys," Jokinen said. "There's over thirty guys in those meetings, so we're confident they made the right decision."

His teammate, Cory Sarich, said it was up to each player to get more involved.

"I wish I would have known a little bit more but that's my responsibility," Sarich told TSN on Friday.  "I'd heard rumblings of ... just talk that goes around throughout our league, guys just expressing their views and a little bit of uncertainty and unhappiness with what was happening in the union offices there in Toronto, and this is what comes from it.  But I think it's just maybe a wake-up call for all of us as players to get out there, get involved with our reps a little bit more and be sure that we are informed about all the decisions that are being made.

"I know Robyn (Regehr) on our team does a great job of coming to us but we should probably be more proactive and get out there and voice our opinions.

"We're going to run into another wall here in a couple of years and I'm sure there is going to be a lot of tough talks coming up and guys need to get informed."

Watters suggested to Roenick that approximately 90 percent of players on the executive committee are under age 23, and wondered if they may be more heavily influenced by the administrators of the NHLPA.

"The education of those players is going to be very low - I would say that most of them have high school educations, not college educations, and not to put athletes down, but they are not the brightest bulbs in the box," said Roenick.

"That being said, they are really influenced by the smarter people - the lawyers, and the guys who seem to have gone to college and wear the suits and ties and represent themselves as being the smart people. The players look at these guys and put their faith in them, and sometimes they shouldn't do that."

Jokinen, though, indicated that he was confident in the administration.

"I think we're going in the right direction," Jokinen said. "It's always tough when there's changes and in the past three or four years we've had three different union leaders, but hopefully guys take time this time, and they make the right choice."

Sarich said the union just needed to find stable ground.

"It's been tough from a player's standpoint to sit by and see everything that's happened," Sarich told TSN.  "I mean, I'm just trying to get myself up to speed on all of the events, but there's just been so much volatility within our union in the last little while ... we've got to get something permanent put in place, something we can trust, someone we can trust, and someone we're very comfortable with."