Emotional, philosophical exit for Kelly

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Shocked. Disappointed. Saddened.

Even as he took the high road yesterday in making his first public comments since being booted out of his role as executive director of the NHLPA, Paul Kelly could not hide the overriding emotions that went hand-in-hand with his ousting.

"When you lose a role, particularly one that you love -- and I did love this one because of the incredible respect I have for the players and the game -- when you are being asked to move on and leave that role, it hurts," Kelly said. "It's something I will come to grips with.

"I hope that I have left the game in a better place. I hope that I have helped to bring some level of credibility back to the NHLPA."

Speaking on a pair of Toronto radio stations -- first AM 640, then The Fan 590 -- Kelly was steadfast in his claim that the interests of the players always was the No. 1 objective during his 21-month tenure at the helm of the union.

Perhaps Kelly, the Boston lawyer who replaced the disgraced Ted Saskin after the lockout of 2004-05, was reacting to suggestions that he was too buddy-buddy with league officials and not close enough with the players he represented.

Saskin was sacked amid allegations that he had been monitoring players' e-mails.

"I just want to say that my efforts at the NHLPA were always designed and intended to protect players," Kelly said. "It was the first order of business in my mind at all times. It's what I awoke thinking and what I retired at the end of the day thinking about.

"Secondly, I was always looking for ways to grow the game. I always thought there was room to accomplish both those things."

Kelly also was saddened to hear a report that Kevin Lovitt, NHLPA director of corporate sponsorships, allegedly had been axed by the union, as well. Lovitt's apparent firing came on the heels of the resignation of one of Kelly's right-hand men, former NHLer Pat Flatley.

"A good man," Kelly said of Lovitt.

Kelly added that he hoped he leaves the union in a more favourable state than it was in when he was hired in 2007.

"Obviously, I had a great number of people who were helping me," he said. "But I am a better person for having had the experience."

Through it all, Kelly refused to publicly slag the union, refusing to divulge NHLPA's reasoning for letting him go.

"Some things should remain in-house," he said.


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