MONTREAL (AP) -- Former NHL star and union executive Vincent Damphousse says the next leader of the NHL Players' Association must be free to make decisions without the fear of being fired.
In an interview with The Canadian Press on Tuesday, Damphousse said Paul Kelly, who was fired by the association's executive board on Monday, was victim of "a kind of paranoia in the group."
Damphousse, who played in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto, worked for the association as director of business affairs. He left before Kelly succeeded Ted Saskin in 2007.
"For the new guy coming in, the players need to let him work," he said. "There was maybe too much leeway before and now it's like the guy is in handcuffs. He's got to be able to work with confidence."
The next executive director will be the fourth in five years.
Bob Goodenow, who disagreed with a collective bargaining agreement that ended the 2004-05 lockout and brought in a salary cap, left in 2005 and was replaced by Saskin. He had a close relationship with league brass but was fired for allegedly monitoring players' e-mail.
Kelly, who appeared to defend the players interests while maintaining good relations with the commissioner, looked to be the victim of a discontented group within the association intent on having a hardline leader for negotiations on a new CBA in 2011.
The association gave no specific reason for firing Kelly. They said the move came after a review of his leadership.