The NHL Players’ Association apparently has about $850,000 a year to spend on a part-time ombudsman and six division player representatives, so you’d have to think it will be sparing no expense in its latest internal review.
Without a doubt the recently formed review committee to investigate the internal operations of the NHLPA will have some very, very broad powers in its mandate. The players on the committee – Nicklas Lidstrom, Mark Recchi, Rob Blake and Chris Chelios – have a decided pro-Paul Kelly bent to them, but it’s certainly no less than the anti-Kelly sentiment held by many of the people who conducted a review of Kelly’s performance last summer, before he was fired.
(Just a thought. Do you think part of the reason Chelios is so intent on returning to the NHL is so that he can retain his NHLPA membership?)
The resolution that received the endorsement of 23 of the 30 player representatives gives the committee as close to carte blanche as you can get. The resolution decrees the committee, “be authorized to take whatever actions it considers appropriate to carry out its mandate, including the engagement, hire and determination of terms and conditions of remuneration of such advisors as it may consider necessary to achieve the committee’s purposes.”
The resolution goes on to state that the authorization is subject to “budgetary restrictions,” but an organization that has an estimated $80-million war chest should be able to find enough money to get this job done properly.
And let’s hope for everyone’s sake they’re finally able to do that. Considering where the association is in its history and how crucial this investigation is to its future, it’s imperative it is done right. A review of the association’s internal operations won’t be a cure-all for the NHLPA, but it will go a long way toward cleansing the association and giving it the fresh start it needs (again).
The review is not expected to take an especially long time and should be done within a couple of months. The four veteran players will do almost none of the heavy lifting themselves and instead will oversee others as they try to get to the bottom of what might be a rather unseemly place.
All email correspondence in the office is sure to be scrutinized and those investigating will have unfettered access to all the key players in the drama. It’s crucial they get to the bottom of what transpired leading up to the key meeting in Las Vegas where Ian Penny was given his five-year contract extension and the meeting in Chicago when Kelly was ousted.
So what does it all mean? Well, interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove, who has gone on the record saying he did not recommend the NHLPA fire Kelly, might want to freshen up his resume. The advisory board, one of a number of checks and balances that has essentially neutered whoever is in the executive director’s chair, might have seen its last days.
And interim director Penny might not want to get too attached to that new five-year contract extension. Since it was essentially done contrary to the NHLPA’s own constitution when it cut Kelly out of the process, there is a fair bit to investigate. Same for the actual deal, which is said to be worth $650,000 per year to start, then escalates to between $750,000 and $800,000 for a five-year total worth of about $3.5 million. Remember, that’s for general counsel, not the executive director job.
By comparison, Michael Weiner, who is general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, makes about the same amount of money, but he has been with the association for 27 years. Richard Berthelsen, general counsel for the National Football League Players’ Association, reportedly makes less than half what Penny is scheduled to make on his new deal.
Suffice it to say the NHLPA will not look the same after this. And that’s a good thing.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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