Kelly's ouster by NHLPA militants portends big trouble
A message, courtesy of the NHLPA, for the damned soul who eventually replaces
Approach any and all dealings with the NHL with ill humor and malice aforethought.
And watch your back.
Kelly, whose only failing during his nearly two-year tenure may have been ignoring those warnings himself, was marched to the guillotine after a palace coup at 3:30 Monday morning. He was replaced Monday evening on an interim basis by general counsel
Hoping for some kind of smoking gun to justify the dismissal? Don't hold your breath.
Oh, the PA may eventually trot out some minor technical breach bearing Kelly's fingerprints, but there's no rush. The union no doubt understands that any explanation it offers the public now is likely to be met with a healthy degree of skepticism born of Kelly's clean, 25-year record of service and the NHLPA's own history as the most dysfunctional union in all of pro sports.
So at least give them credit for not being wholly disingenuous. Because this wasn't about thievery like the ouster of
"We're potentially only two seasons away from the expiration at the end of the CBA either 2010-11 or 2011-12 at the PA's option," he said. "So we feel now's the time to make a move and ensure we have the optimal leadership."
In other words, start loading up the war chest, boys. Come 2011, we're looking at a another looooooong off-season.
It's hard to understand why the players allow Chelios, who appears to have no future in the league, to assay such a pivotal role affecting the fate of their union. Or how
One thing, however, is clear: by removing Kelly before he had the chance to involve himself in a single major negotiation, the PA has reverted to its old, sordid ways and re-defined the type of relationship it wants with the NHL and, by extension, the fans of the game.
Yes, the fans. It's hard not to read this as a slap in the face of the paying customers who, thanks to Kelly's common sense approach, learned to forgive and forget after the last labor imbroglio wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season.
Kelly was hired back in Oct. 2007 as the antithesis to former union head Goodenow and charged with building a more progressive relationship with the league. That, after all, was the basis of the CBA he inherited -- a deal that would see both sides profit through a more focused, cohesive approach to marketing the game.
Under Kelly's leadership, the union took on a more centrist profile. Going along to get along on issues of mutual benefit. And it worked. That whole "rising tide lifts all ships" bit may not fly in the real world, but judging by the contracts handed out over the past couple years, union members seemed to be doing alright in this new era of fraternity.
Still, there were some who saw any expression of civility extended toward the NHL as proof that Kelly was
Truth is, Kelly compiled a strong record for a labor leader between negotiations. But it wasn't enough to keep the group's more militant faction happy. Angered by their marginalization under Kelly -- and, according to one source, an internal audit that questioned spending practices in the union, though that point's been disputed by the NHLPA -- they worked a masterful smear campaign to get him out of their way.
And now that group -- led by Chelios, Hargrove, Lindros and lawyer
But before they make their selection, it might behoove them to dig into their own recent history. Goodenow ultimately failed as the union's leader because he couldn't convince the rank and file that they needed to hold out for two seasons to wear down the owners. After losing that 2004-05 battle, and after seeing the number of players who never made it back after the formal end of hostilities, is there any reason to believe they have the stomach for another winter spent puttering around the house?
The truth is, as a group, the players are far more interested in playing the game than in having their lawyers beat up the league's lawyers. The anti-Kelly cabal shouldn't mistake a silence bred by disinterest in PA matters for a mandate to pursue this course. Whoever takes the reins has to do more than convince guys like
As one former PA rep said Tuesday morning, "Whoever it is, I think he'll have a lot tougher sell next time around."
The player, who said he'd yet to hear from his team's current rep about the grounds for dismissal, wondered about the quality of candidates that would be offered as Kelly's replacement.
"I don't even know who'd want the job at this point," he continued. "Who'd feel safe when everyone always has their knives out?"
Good point. Around this group, a job well done offers no guarantees.