NHLPA player reps vote to authorize probe into Saskin's hiring

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The probe was announced Thursday in a release from a New York-based public relations company as players and officials were scattered across the continent following Wednesday night's all-star game.

"This is an informative investigation that we feel will preserve the integrity of our NHLPA constitution and leadership process," Mathieu Schneider, a Detroit Red Wings defenceman and interim NHLPA executive committee member, said in the release. "The purpose of the investigation is to clear the air, produce clarity on these questions and fortify a strong unified union."

A conference call between Saskin and the executive board, which is made up of the NHLPA's executive committee and the player-rep from each of the 30 teams, was set for Thursday evening.

"The NHLPA will be conducting a previously scheduled conference call with the executive board this evening and therefore will be declining comment until that time," said an NHLPA spokesman.

News of this latest challenge comes just three days after a lawsuit against Saskin and others was dismissed by a U.S. federal court in Illinois. The judge agreed with the NHLPA position that Ontario rather than Illinois should host such a lawsuit, if indeed it was even warranted.

A group of about 70 players led by Chris Chelios, Dwayne Roloson and Trent Klatt has sought Saskin's removal as the NHLPA's executive director ever since he took over from Bob Goodenow following the lockout.

Schneider is believed to support that group.

They are also driving this latest move, said a player who supports Saskin, adding that the probe was agreed to as a way to placate them and shut the door on what is becoming a never-ending saga.

"It's completely ridiculous," he said. "We've already had all the questions answered several times. But if they want another investigation fine, as long as it done the right way."

The main bone of contention will be who conducts the investigation. The players who support Saskin want it run by a neutral third-party while Chelios' group is said to favour their lawyer for the job.