A reasonable request

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

If the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association had settled their differences last February, life today probably would be a lot simpler for Ted Saskin.

It would have been too late to play a season, and the players wouldn't have got together for six months, plenty of time for unrest to die down.

But that's not the way it happened and now the on-again, off-again turmoil that had been smouldering quietly has blossomed into a full-scale conflagration.

It started in August with some players being upset at the way Saskin, with the help of NHLPA president Trevor Linden, manipulated the voting process that saw him replace Bob Goodenow as executive director.

But once training camps started and players got a chance to talk over their differences, it appeared that the turmoil was about to die down. Concessions were being promised by both sides.

At that point, however, the exhibition season started and NHL players found themselves in a position to sound out players on other teams.

Suddenly, it became apparent that the resentment was still very real and, sensing support, the dissidents went back to work.

Players started comparing notes, and pointing out to each other some of the previously unnoticed shortcomings in the collective bargaining agreement. Now, the malcontents have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in the United States.

What does this all mean to fans? Directly, not a lot.

The players will go on playing. The season is not threatened and for the most part, that's all fans want to hear.

This is an internal matter, and the only direct impact for the fans concerns the possibility of recrimination. Some of the high-profile leaders on both sides are likely to be targeted for retaliation.

There also is the real possibility of internal dissension on teams such as Detroit and Toronto where some of the more militant anti-Saskin forces reside.

But the person to be most profoundly affected by all this is Saskin, who brought these problems on himself. Even though he may deserve the job, he should have known, as a lawyer, that organizations have constitutions for a reason. The rules have to be followed, and the decision to circumvent a clearly defined demand for a secret ballot with a conference-call vote always was a non-starter.

That was the thin edge of Trent Klatt's wedge. Klatt felt that due process had been denied and started his apparently altruistic campaign to have the NHLPA follow its own constitution.

After that, other complaints began to surface. Why should Saskin base his starting salary on Goodenow's final salary? Goodenow had been on the job 15 years and created huge financial windfalls for the players. What had Saskin done to deserve that salary (minus the 24% rollback)?

Why should the players support the guy who created what they now realize is an abysmal CBA?

Why does it make sense to follow a guy who spent six months stating publicly that the owners' figures could not be believed, then crafted a deal based upon trust of the owners' figures?

WANT ANSWERS

There may be perfectly valid answers to these and other questions about Saskin's stewardship. But Klatt and his group want to make sure that they get them, so they have gone to the NLRB.

Saskin may be the perfect guy for the job. But Klatt and his group want to make sure, so they propose a full candidate search and a league-wide vote upon the matter.

In short, Klatt and his group are asking that the NHLPA follow its own constitution. It doesn't seem like an awful lot to ask.


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