SUN Hockey Pool

Rift? What rift?

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

DETROIT -- When news of the rift within the National Hockey League Players' Association surfaced, training camps had not opened.

Players were spread over two continents and, as a result, rumours were rampant and emotions ran high.

But now that the players have returned to their teams and had a chance to discuss the issues, there seems to be an easing of the tensions.

The problem began in August when the executive committee accepted the resignation of Bob Goodenow as executive director and appointed Ted Saskin to replace him on what was assumed to be an interim basis. Many players felt the committee had acted with unseemly haste.

But the real flashpoint came when the player representatives -- one per team-- joined the executive committee on a conference call and voted to give Saskin a long-term contract.

In the Detroit Red Wings dressing room sit two veterans who are on opposite sides of the debate. Brendan Shanahan sees no significant problem with the course of action that was taken. Chris Chelios thinks the committee and player representatives overstepped their bounds, that they acted without consulting their constituents.

"I just wish it was slowed down," Chelios said. "A lot of guys feel the same way -- that it happened way too fast.

"On that first conference call that voted Ted in, there were three votes before the player reps knew what hit them. I don't think that's the way to do it."

"We've got 700 guys," Shanahan said. "You can't expect every single guy to agree on everything. I don't think anybody was trying to do anything sneaky."

Once training camp started and the two players -- and hundreds of others like them -- had a chance to discuss the situation, it became apparent their differences aren't that great.

There is no desire to get rid of Saskin. It's simply a matter of following proper procedure.

"I'm not complaining about Ted," Chelios said. "I'm just complaining that the players have to be aware and know what they were voting on.

"I just thought everything got rushed and it didn't sit right -- the player reps not being able to discuss it with the players, then go back and do the vote.

"The guys who were on the inside probably have a different opinion, but I like to think I speak for the majority of guys who would probably just have liked to have had a say."

Shanahan has no serious objections to Chelios' stance.

"He and I have had healthy conversations about it," he said. "I agree with him that players right now need to take a step back and get themselves informed if they don't feel informed, and players need to be comfortable before we move forward.

"If the players aren't comfortable, then everybody involved in the association has to make sure that they are. That's where Chelly and I agree."

So, the situation in the PA appears to be closer to conciliation than confrontation. Saskin has agreed to go through the process again, this time with attention being paid to the secret-ballot requirements of the PA's constitution. And any player who wants to make his views known will be able to do so.

UNION LOOKS BETTER

"In the end," Shanahan said, "players like Chelly and a lot of others players get whatever information they need, and our union, our association, looks better and works better.

"Ted has nothing to hide. I didn't really know anything about Ted until the last six months. I was really impressed with him, but if I hadn't been involved with the meetings and the competition committee, I'd be in the dark about Ted as well, so I kind of understand what they're saying."

That doesn't sound like a union at war with itself.


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