SUN Hockey Pool

NHLPA controversy gets thicker

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Just when you thought the NHLPA couldn’t take any more publicity hits, it absorbs another blow right in the gut.

The recent housecleaning of Paul Kelly and the ensuing controversy is a major reason why many difficult questions were asked during the executive board's conference call Sunday night, a multi-hour session that stretched deep into the evening.

From the moment Kelly was turfed in Chicago back in August, the union's image has been regularly smeared.

But as Maple Leafs player rep Matt Stajan correctly points out, there has been a lot of misinformation out there.

The players are attempting to determine if, in fact, Kelly was dismissed with cause.

If so, a legal battle with the Kelly camp is imminent, especially if the remainder of Kelly’s contract with the union is not honoured.

The NHLPA, once again, was the object of criticism this weekend, especially on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Both Don Cherry and Mike Milbury delivered stinging indictments of the union.

Adding fuel to the fire was the union's recent gaffe of eliciting the legal opinion of former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry, who wrote a piece suggesting the union had just cause for relieving Kelly.

The situation made headlines because McMurtry had ties with former union head Alan Eagleson, who was convicted of hockey-related fraud in 1998.

Kelly, then a U.S. prosecutor, played a part in the proceedings.

The union claims it was unaware of the McMurtry-Eagleson ties and is looking at the prospect of bringing in a second legal opinion.

With the new season upon us, this is the time of year where fans want to read about battles in the corners, not the courtrooms.

They thought the spotlight might turn to the ice after the legal skirmish between Blackberry head Jim Balsillie and the NHL was resolved last week in Phoenix, with bankruptcy judge Redfield T. Baum awarding the Coyotes to neither party.

No such luck.

More Europe?

The NHL might be toying with the idea of expanding its opening weekend in Europe from four teams to six or eight next year but, to date, the Maple Leafs have yet to be invited.

The Leafs certainly would be willing participants if the offer is made.

"If the league asks us to go, we'll go," general manager Brian Burke said yesterday. "It would be an honour."

This year's events proved to be a resounding success for the league.

The Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks each recorded one victory in their two-game series in Helsinki, while the surprising St. Louis Blues swept a pair from the heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings in Stockholm.

Calling Mac

Joey MacDonald's 32-save performance in the Marlies 3-2 shootout victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs in yesterday's home opener will only serve to fan the flames among those looking to create a goalie controversy.

There are those who already are calling for MacDonald, the game’s second star, to be elevated to the Leafs, with the struggling Vesa Toskala shipped down to the farm to take his place.

But management isn’t going to pull such a panic move.

Not yet. Not after just two games.

The Road Back

There was a Jiri Tlusty sighting at Ricoh Coliseum.

The former first-rounder scored a big shootout goal, one that was overseen by a number of management types, including Burke.

After turning in a disappointing training camp, Tlusty must start getting into the good books of the braintrust again by elevating his play on a consistent basis.

Shootout goals like yesterday’s certainly helps his cause.

Tlusty was on the Young Guns line with promising prospects Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.

Bozak, like Tlusty, scored in the shootout.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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