Ted Saskin is heading to the barricades again as a group of dissident NHL players launched a lawsuit to review his election as executive director of the players' association and remove him from office.
Chris Chelios, Dwayne Roloson and the retired Trent Klatt filed papers yesterday in U.S. District court in Chicago against Saskin, former NHLPA president Trevor Linden and three other members. The plaintiffs, whom Chelios said represent more than 100 of almost 700 NHL players, claim repeated violations of the association's constitution, thus infringing upon the democratic rights of the players that the union represents.
The players are asking that the court remove Saskin for alleged improper election, misrepresentation of salary figures during negotiations and that he illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars in union funds for his own benefit. Also named in the suit are Bill Guerin and the retired Vincent Damphousse and Bob Boughner.
Asked if the ultimate goal of the suit was to topple Saskin, lead attorney Robert Lanza said, "I wouldn't put it that way. The players merely seek full disclosure of what happened (at the end of the lockout when Saskin replaced Bob Goodenow)."
Lanza said he didn't expect the suit to be complicated because the NHLPA is headquartered in Canada.
Chelios said the lawsuit became necessary following "months of stonewalling by the union."
"We continue to seek full disclosure by the NHLPA of the events leading up to Goodenow's departure and the hijacking of the union by a handful of other players. We have repeatedly requested that Mr. Saskin agree to an investigation by an impartial third party and he has steadfastly refused to do so. We simply want to eliminate fraud within the players' union and restore democracy as provided by our constitution."
Saskin did not comment, but a union spokesman said yesterday, "The NHLPA has not been served with a complaint but we're confident that these reported allegations are without merit."
Though the suit doesn't affect the start of the NHL regular season tonight, it's a reminder of bitterness after the owners emerged from the lockout with their desired salary cap, while the players lost a year's wages.
The Saskin skirmish also divided the Maple Leaf dressing room last year, with veterans Tie Domi, Eric Lindros and Ed Belfour in the rebel camp and captain Mats Sundin and many younger Leafs behind Saskin.
Three months ago, the NHLPA held a summer meeting in Whistler, B.C., where Linden stepped down and an interim executive committee was picked to revise the constitution. It was thought that was going to satisfy the rebels.
The new executive includes Mathieu Schneider, Alyn McCauley, Wade Redden, Daniel Alfredsson and Marty Turco. A new president has yet to be named.