NHLPA fires Kelly: Picking through the rubble

According to sources, part of this group’s desire to get rid of Kelly also stemmed from Kelly ordering an internal audit (by a top former FBI forensic accountant) of the players' association's expenses during the previous three years before he took over. That audit was still ongoing prior to Kelly’s dismissal. Sources claim that through the audit, Kelly discovered that then-interim leaders Penny and Lindros were [allegedly] spending millions of dollars of the union’s money. Lindros ended up resigning, but word is, that move fueled this attack on Kelly, and Lindros was very much involved.

— James Murphy, NESN.com

I've read 20 to 30 articles in the last 24 hours on Paul Kelly's surprise ouster from the NHLPA, and if anyone gets to the truth of the matter, it just may be Murph in the passage above.

And what a sad indictment of the whole "process" that is.

I've covered some of the NHLPA dealings extensively in the past, going back to the pivotal meetings in 2007 here in Toronto, and throughout those days talking to players like Mathieu Schneider and Shawn Horcoff, you wanted to believe that the union was, in fact, on the verge of turning a corner. The hiring of Kelly, the very man who had helped take down Alan Eagleson, seemed symbolic, a hopeful sign that this mess of an organization had found its leader to take them out of the Dark Ages.

And you can't help but look at what's happened here and wonder if there's any way for this group to find some sense of unity, especially as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen among its membership.

Here's Tom Benjamin:

The Union was broken in the labour war of 2004-05 and it is weak, fractious and inherently unstable. Paul Kelly did not really get a chance to make it strong, united and stable.

As I have written several times since 2005, it is very hard to see a positive direction for this Union. The last thing most players want is another fight with the NHL. Even if that were not so, how can the NHLPA convince themselves they could ever win a fight with the owners now? They can’t – and won’t – trust each other. When push comes to shove, the owners will get whatever they want from the next CBA, just like they got what they wanted from the last one.

I firmly believe that Kelly is a very intelligent man who tried to rule this union with common sense, honesty and integrity, and the fact that they've run him out the door this quickly is not a good sign. You look at the quotes from players before he was hired as to what they wanted, and he is their man, someone who would work, as Mark Spector puts it, "as a cooperative alternative to the confrontational Bob Goodenow."

The NHLPA's chances of finding a better candidate to lead them into 2011's labour war in the near future are realistically slim to none. And you better believe the owners are licking their lips right now at that thought.

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