SUN Hockey Pool

A mess like no other

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

There is even more labour mess heading into this Labour Day weekend, once again featuring the NHLPA.

In the most recent episode of this never ending soap opera, ousted executive director Paul Kelly and outgoing director of player affairs Glenn Healy yesterday defended themselves against accusations and innuendo that surrounded their individual departures from the union.

Suggestions surfaced yesterday that Kelly may have read a confidential transcript from a players-only meeting, the inference being that the alleged act played a role in his dismissal.

Asked if the reports were, in fact, true, one high-ranking union member last night told Sun Media: "I'm not going to deny that."

Kelly, obviously outraged at the implication, immediately fired off a statement in response, saying that "I can not stand by and allow this false and misleading attack on my character and reputation."

Interim executive director Ian Penny did not want to comment on Kelly's reaction until reading the entire statement but did note during a couple of radio interviews that there did not appear, on the surface, to be a denial involved.

According to a source close to the situation, there is an allegation that the players may have breached their own constitution by agreeing to a contract extension for Penny earlier this year without Kelly present.

"If Paul did, in fact, look at the transcript from that players-only meeting, it would have been to verify that they had breached their own constitution," the source said.

Healy, meanwhile, handed in his resignation to Penny yesterday, adding to a mushrooming cast of officials who have exited the NHLPA this week. That group includes Kelly, Healy, former assistant director of player affairs Pat Flatley, union accounting consultant Bob Lundqvist and former director of corporate sponsorships Bob Lovitt.

In his resignation, Healy said an Office Health Assessment Report "indicates I misled the players and did not tell them the full truth. These accusations were made because of comments I made to players, in particular about Wayne Gretzky and his contributions and personal sacrifices for the Players' Association. When Wayne Gretzky joined our Group Licensing Agreement in 1992, it made the Players' Association millions of dollars, has allowed the PA to stand on its own, and allowed every player to prosper.

"Ian Penny ... openly disagreed with my defence of Wayne Gretzky and proceeded to openly criticize Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux ... I would never and have not told any mistruths or told any untruths to any player.

"I cannot sit back and continue to perform my duties when my players' association co-workers unjustifiably impugn my credibility in front of the players I represent and fire shots against Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, two of the greatest players in the game, who have benefited every player in this players' association."

Penny denied he slagged Gretzky and Lemieux, claiming the timing of the accusations appeared to be part of a plan to overshadow the reports of Kelly's conduct.

What a mess.

This much is certain: Healy will be missed. He often defended players to a fault. Not the biggest fan of fellow Pickering native Sean Avery by any means, Healy was in New York during Avery's hearing with the NHL last season, supporting a player he had little use for.

Why? For the good of the union.

And look where it got him.

Perhaps Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay, who first tried to organize a union back in the 1950s, sounded the loudest alarm bells yesterday when he compared Kelly's firing to the 1967 era when Alan Eagleson was taking over.

Lindsay, in Chicago for the union meetings earlier this week, called Kelly's firing "the biggest scam job, execution, that I've ever seen in my life."

Just another PR hit for a union that is being peppered with them.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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