One player rep calls union 'a mess'

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Asked for his take on the state of the union -- as in NHL players' union -- Tim Taylor rolled his eyes.

"It's a mess," Taylor, the player rep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, said yesterday.

Just 18 hours earlier, Taylor, the Maple Leafs' Matt Stajan and 28 other player reps had been on a Sunday night conference call that resulted in the players' executive board voting to give NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin and NHLPA executive director Ken Kim a paid leave of absence.

ALLEGATIONS DENIED

Both men have been accused of reading players personal e-mails. According to Stajan, players on the conference call were told exactly that, although Saskin reportedly continues to deny those allegations.

Outside counsel will be hired to conduct an investigation into Saskin-gate. An internal probe into Saskin's hiring conducted by Toronto lawyer Sheila Block is ongoing and is expected to be completed by the summer.

Either way, Saskin's days appear to be numbered, leaving Taylor wondering who is running the ship.

"Do we know who's in charge right now? Absolutely not," Taylor said. "Basically, I think the only people in charge right now are the lawyers trying to do the investigation."

"I guess Chris Chelios might be in charge right now. He seemed like he wanted to take charge of the whole thing in the first place," Taylor added sarcastically.

Chelios has been leading the charge to usurp Saskin for more than a year. Some players like Taylor might still question his motives but, according to Chelios, more of them are seeing his side of the story, especially after Sunday's conference call.

"I've gotten hundreds of calls from players already," Chelios told Pierre LeBrun of the Canadian Press yesterday. "They can't even believe what's happened and they're thanking me. And now they understand."

Chelios has always questioned the whopping contract given to Saskin, a deal reported to be $10 million US over five years.

For the time being, it appears NHLPA director of hockey affairs Mike Gartner will have a significant role in running the day-to-day operations of the union. All the while, names like J.P. Barry and Mike Gillis, both prominent player agents, have surfaced as possible candidates to replace Saskin.

Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe, the team's player rep during the lockout of 2004-05, is not surprised at the chaos surrounding the union.

"I was quite outspoken on the conference calls (during the lockout) and I don't think my opinions were ever taken into account," he said. "I was very discouraged.

"(Chelios) has been on this for a long time and I've supported everything he's said."

Stajan said another conference call will be held next Monday.

"You knew something was fishy when (former union executive) Steve Larmer, a class guy, stepped down," Stajan said.

"In our dressing room, the whole (NHLPA situation) became a big joke. Guys always would wonder if any new allegations had come up against Ted."


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