Sorting through this NHLPA mess

Monday, August 31, 2009

If you live in my house, you would've heard that Paul Kelly was fired yesterday. If you aren't me, then you probably were staring at me cross-eyed as I attempted to explain the significance of this move. Here I've attempted to give the basics on this situation and why the average fan should care.

Who: Executive director of the NHLPA, Paul Kelly, interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove, general counsel Ian Penny.

When/Where: Yesterday at 3:30 in the morning in Chicago.

What happened:
Paul Kelly was fired yesterday. The decision came from executive board which is made up of 30 player representatives.

Why? That’s the million dollar question. Nobody knows exactly why Kelly was fired.

Of course that doesn’t mean we can't speculate, right? Among the more interesting theories/questions out there:
  • TSN has said that some inside the NHLPA thought Kelly wasn’t doing enough to get to know the players and/or was too close to Bettman and Daly.
  • Was Kelly fired because he actually did his job instead of simply being a mouthpiece? That was one question posed one of the talkshows that I happened to overhear (I can't remember which). They seemed to feel on the show that Kelly was fired because he was doing his job. Because he had opinions and would voice them. They claim the NHLPA's board didn't like this.
  • What about Ian Penny who is currently sitting in as the interim exec director? He's had issues with Kelly before and now he has his job. Coincidence?
  • What of Buzz Hargrove the former president of CAW? Apparently his report on Kelly's (alleged) flaws played a large role in the executive board's nearly unanimous decision to fire Kelly. What will his role be in the post-Kelly NHLPA?
WAIT! This Kelly guy was close to Bettman?! Say no more! Allegedly. But let’s also contrast that with Kelly’s predecessor, Bob Goodenow, who apparently couldn’t even sit at the same table as Bettman during negotiations for the current CBA. Fractured relations between the head of the NHLPA and the head of the NHL aren’t good either. Obviously I don’t know the exact nature of Kelly’s relationship with Bettman, but it seems to me that it would be important for the head of the NHLPA and the NHL to at least sit at the same table.

So why would the average fan give a damn about this? Kelly wanted to work with the NHL in a constructive manner. Now that he is out and we know that guys like Hargrove tend to take a hardline approach, we can expect the NHLPA to assume a more rigid stance once the CBA can be renegotiated in 2011. Which means.....

....We could be in for another lockout, right? Quite possibly, yes. The NHLPA had the opportunity to re-open the CBA this year but they optioned not to. Keep in mind though, that that decision came under Kelly. Under a new executive director who is willing to take a hardliner approach, we could very well be in for another lockout.

And that’s....bad? Yes. Not only is a lockout sucky for the fans, but a second lockout could be devastating for the league (particularly for franchises that are currently struggling to survive). The Preds on the Glass and the Program offered up the ultimate doomsday scenerio. Granted it's an absolute worst case scenerio (for Bettman anyway), but it's interesting to think about where the NHL could potentially end up.

What do the actual players think of this? So far I've only heard Ilya Kovalchuk call the current CBA "dumb". Past that, I don't know what anyone else thinks. But it's not exactly comforting to see a player like Kovalchuk calling the CBA dumb.

More reading: Ken Campbell details why this matters to fans. Sportnets explains the situation in more detail. Down Goes Brown has has his own take. Worth the read if you want to be amused for a change.


Justin said...

Argh, I didn't finish submitting my comment.

This is a great writeup. I honestly thought I was reading Mirtle or Puck Daddy or something for a minute until I re-read the title. :p

And honestly, I don't know that the THP scenario is that terrible. It sounds to me like it would suck for a while but would ultimately end up better for the long as you still had a team, of course.

Eternal Pessimist said...

Haha, I'm glad you liked it. I think I had too much fun reading the CBA the other night....

Yeah, well, I wrote something where I wondered if perhaps Canada should have it's own league... and this scenario rather fits into my musings.

We'll see. Obviously we don't know for sure if they will want to renegotiate the CBA in 2011 but right now it looks like they want to put on a tougher front.

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