Here's what you might hear at your local AA meeting next week: "Hi everyone! My name is Paul Kelly and I was wrongfully dismissed from my job as Executive Director of the NHLPA by a bunch of idiots because they believed I didn't pat them on the ass enough."
Wow. That's about the best I can muster this morning as news filters down from TSN and around the blogosphere (The 7th Woman, Dee Karl has a nice writeup) that NHLPA Executive Director, Paul Kelly has been relieved of his duties. Welcome to your next work stoppage hockey fans.
Very early this morning (around 3:45 AM), Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted/reported that the NHLPA Executive Committee voted unanimously to dismiss Kelly on the grounds that the players didn't believe Kelly was going in the right direction and didn't take the time to get to know enough of the labor base. I have to speculate however, that I believe this is more of a power struggle at the top of the NHLPA more than anything. Take into account the comment that Dom posted from Ken Campbell's story on The Hockey News from yesterday:
So think about it. The ringleaders in Kelly’s attempted (and now confirmed) lynching are a former player who has run up against the establishment at every turn and resigned from the PA because he couldn’t work with Kelly (Eric Lindros); the man who didn’t get the job when the PA decided Kelly would be a better choice (Ron Pink); and one of the most confrontational labor leaders of our generation (Buzz Hargrove).
As a result of Kelly's firing, a man very well known to Islanders fans, Patrick Flatley, who held the position of NHLPA Assistant Director of Player Affairs, resigned in the wake of the latest gaffe made by the Player's Association. Kelly and Flatley were extremely dedicated to getting the concessions the player's wanted, but didn't need to resort to military style bully tactics (Bob Goodenow), stealing money from and spying on the players (Ted Saskin) or being convicted of a crime (Alan Eagleson). Apparently, the NHLPA doesn't need to look at the very top of their organization for a managerial shakeup but maybe they should look into restructuring their Human Resources department.
What does this mean to YOU...the hockey fan?
Let's just say you better buckle your seat belt because we're gonna be in for one bumpy ride. With Kelly and Flatley gone from the NHLPA's internal leadership, things might get a bit rocky with league management. The next review of the CBA isn't until 2011, but with all the upheaval currently occurring within the "labor union" it might mean that your favorite sport/pastime/addiction/passion will be put on hold once again because men who make millions of dollars can't agree on how many millions they should make.
With Paul Kelly at the helm, there was at least a chance for compromise. He had a good working relationship with the NHL's upper management (The Comish, Bill Daly, etc.) and bridged the gap they had with the players. Rather than fight every last point a la Bob Goodenow, Kelly believed in working with the powers that be to come to the best solution for both sides. With his guidance gone, the NHLPA will find out how directionless they were under the previous three men that held Kelly's now former position.
The power struggle at the top with Lindros, Pink and Hargrove leading the campaign will almost certainly spell disaster for the NHL in the coming years. Whoever is chosen to follow Kelly in to the depths of Hell (aka NHLPA's Executive Director's Office) will find out quickly that they are merely a figurehead; a marionette to be controlled by a small minority within the inner circle of money-grubbing, power-hungry former players and lawyers.
Good luck to whoever that may be...