NHLPA, You Owe Me Answers

Jennie LuptakCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2009

TORONTO - APRIL 8: Matt Stajan #14 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Buffalo Sabres during their NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on April 8, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Matt Stajan doesn’t want to answer to Sidney Crosby.

Or Ted Lindsay.

Or Bobby Orr.

Or, it seems, any person who wants to know exactly what went down when the NHL Players’ Association executive board dismissed Executive Director Paul Kelly last month.

“We interviewed the staff, we did what we had to do,” Stajan, player rep to the NHLPA, told The National Post. “Now that people are questioning this, I’m just disappointed that there are guys out there doing this. None of this is helping the union.”

You want to talk about not helping the union, Stajan?

How about waiting a week—seven lousy days—to meet with your NHL mates when training camps open? How about making up your minds about what kind of leadership you want—you’ve gone through two Executive Directors in the past four years? How about shirking that aw-shucks mentality and making a decision for yourselves.

But that’s not what you or your PA want to do.


You want everything. You surround yourself with Eric Lindros and Buzz Hargrove—how, exactly, did the latter get into hockey?—and you make landmark decisions that affect the entire game at 3:30 in the morning.

(Question: if it’s considered cruel and unfair for Magnitogorsk Metallurg to use 3 a.m. contract signings to keep Evgeni Malkin playing in the KHL, what makes it okay for the NHLPA to use the same tactics to oust Kelly?)

What’s even more mind-boggling, Stajan, is that you seem to be concerned about the collective bargaining agreement that expires in September 2011.

“The [CBA]’s up in three years, and we felt a change had to be made,” you said.

Do you honestly believe the next Executive Director is going to make any inroads with owners in the next two years? At least, any that are likely to be helpful when it comes to renegotiating the CBA? Doubtful, and not just because of the time-frame—you reportedly axed Kelly for his catch-more-flies-with-honey techniques in player/owner dealings.

Which is understandable since, you know, Bob Goodenow’s take-no-prisoners methods got you so far. (Oh, wait…)

No one except for you and the 21 other player representatives who voted against Kelly know why, exactly, he was fired. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Kelly isn’t going to be reinstated.

But one thing is vitally important: answers. And you’re going to give them. Maybe not now, maybe not soon, but eventually you will.

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to face your teammates and tell them with a straight face you were mad Kelly wasn’t nice to PA office staff—one of his innumerable and unforgivable transgressions.

You’re going to have your hands full when the CBA reopens and whoever you’ve found to replace Kelly—maybe interim Executive Director Ian Penny, who managed to secure a five-year contract extension in the middle of this upheaval?—gets his butt kicked by the owners.

But most of all, you’re going to have to answer to the fans.

You’re going to have to look me in the eye and tell me your short-sighted decision to fire Kelly has lost yet another hockey season to the Lockout Gods. You’re going to have to explain to me why the owners are really at fault, and why I should ever trust the fractious and paranoid NHLPA members again.

You’re going to have to piece together your PA’s image one shard at a time.

You might not want to answer to Sidney Crosby, Ted Lindsay or Bobby Orr, but make no mistake: you’ll answer to me.


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