Larmer rips NHLPA execs, resigns

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Steve Larmer named names.

Ted Saskin. Alan Eagleson.

In a letter of resignation to the National Hockey League Players' Association, Larmer -- the union's consultant for player relations -- yesterday compared the NHLPA and executive director Ted Saskin to the owner-friendly union Alan Eagleson founded and ran for 25 years.

In doing so, he cited the most rotten name he could summon and rubbed Saskin's nose in it.

Eagleson's theft conviction netted him an 18-month jail sentence in 1998 and he remains the gold standard for what the union's members long believed they had outgrown. Cronyism. A lack of accountability. An impunity at the top.

"I am resigning because this organization has taken a giant step backward, back to the days of Eagleson where a select few made decisions for the group," Larmer wrote.

The union now is the focus of a National Labour Relations Board investigation instigated by one of its own members, Trent Klatt. Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour and centre Eric Lindros were among 50 players alleging illegality in the way Saskin was propelled into the executive director's job without a secret vote when Bob Goodenow was fired in July.

"He (Larmer) is a real stand-up guy, a real leader and a great teammate," said Ed Belfour, Larmer's teammate in Chicago. "It's a sad day when a guy like that has to leave the Players' Association because of what is going on."

The fact that Saskin walked into a salary that topped $2 million US a year also rankled.

Up to now, there had been little if any public criticism of Saskin by the players, only the system or lack of it under which he was hired. Saskin has been touring and meeting with teams and seemed quite capable of weathering the allegations of wrongdoing over his hiring.

Now, the 44-year-old Larmer, a straight shooter who once went nine years without missing a game due to injury, has given voice to dissatisfaction with Saskin.

Larmer describes himself as one of the few players willing to take on Eagleson, who caustically rebuked players at meetings and kept a hand-picked cadre of supporters as executive members.

"I remember the Eagleson days when the PA was ruled by the minority and the majority was kept in the dark," Larmer wrote. "Our group of players challenged it, demanded change and received it. We all vowed those days would not return but lo and behold they have."

Larmer said the hiring procedure was initially designed as a hurry-up job.

"When Bob was asked to step down in late July some members of the executive committee hired Ted right away. They did so relying on information given to them by Ted. They did not follow the constitution or the bylaws. They were misled and made a wrong decision. A small group of players does not have the authority to do what they did, the full board should have been consulted prior to making any decisions.

"When a few players got wind of what was going and started to ask questions a conference call was set up to vote Ted in. Without prior information as to what the call was about after two hours a vote was held on whether or not to vote, it was 17 to 17.

"The call should have ended there, a warning to proceed slowly and do it right. Two hours later Ted was voted in but somehow this did not seem right, even to Ted."

The vote to hire Saskin, Larmer said, was tainted.

"Then we have the 'not-so-secret-ballot vote' where there is some active soliciting of votes taking place. This is totally wrong once again.

"What is even more disheartening is that those on the executive committee refuse to do what is right so as an organization we can begin the healing process. Ted is relying on the players playing the game and not paying attention to a most important matter that could affect many players for many years going forward."

Saskin said he didn't agree with Larmer's reasons for resigning, but thanked him for his service.

"I find this very unfortunate since he has not received accurate information on recent events and has never discussed any of his concerns with me," Saskin said in a statement. "Steve is obviously entitled to his own opinions and while I don't agree with his stated reasons for his resignation, I certainly respect his right to do so."


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