Former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly, shown in this file photo, has denied allegations he misused his office by reading a transcript of a private players' meeting. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Paul Kelly, fired boss of the NHL Players' Association, is denying an allegation that he misused his office by reading a transcript of a private players' meeting.

"I cannot stand by and allow this false and misleading attack on my character and reputation," Kelly said in a statement released Thursday.

"I spent almost 10 years as a federal prosecutor, prosecuting numerous cases pertaining to fraud and dishonesty, including one involving a former NHLPA executive director. My personal ethics and reputation are beyond reproach.

Who will succeed Kelly?

Here are a few possibilities:

Richard Berthelsen: The Wisconsin native is a former interim executive director of the NFL Players' Association from 2008 to 2009. Berthelsen is now back in his old job as general counsel of the NFLPA, a position he has held since 1972.

Bill Gregson: Like Berthelsen, Gregson was interviewed for the NHLPA position in 2007 when Kelly was awarded the job. Now is president and CEO of retailer The Brick.

Bob Goodenow: A key figure in the labour dispute that resulted in the lockout four years ago, Goodenow was executive director of the NHLPA from 1992 to 2005.

Buzz Hargrove: The former head of the Canadian Auto Workers union replaced Eric Lindros as the NHLPA's ombudsman this year.

Eric Lindros: The former Philadelphia Flyer was a key figure in the search committee that led to the hiring of Kelly. He stepped down as NHLPA ombudsman in February.

Ian Penny: He previously held the role of general counsel for the union before taking over for Kelly on an interim basis earlier this week.

Ron Pink: Head of the NHLPA's advisory board, Pink wanted the job when Kelly was hired in 2007.

"All of these stories, whether anonymous or by those seeking to protect their individual interests, intend to defame my reputation and good name. They not only harm me, but do harm to the reputation of the over 700 hockey players who make our sport the best in the world."

Ian Penny, the union's general counsel, has assumed Kelly's portfolio on an interim basis until a search committee finds a permanent replacement.

Kelly received his walking papers Monday at a meeting of the NHLPA's player executive in Chicago. No official reason has been cited for his firing other than it came after a review of his leadership.

Reports have surfaced that Kelly was allegedly caught reading documents detailing a confidential meeting between the union's advisory board and its 30-member player executive last June.

The Globe and Mail reported that a member of the player executive didn't deny the allegation when asked about whether it was one of the reasons Kelly was dismissed. The unnamed player's response was that the players had agreed to say nothing about the dismissal.

"I take enormous pride and comfort knowing that I always acted in the best interests of the players, including taking affirmative actions required of me, based on my obligations to the players and the NHLPA," Kelly said in the statement.

"Out of respect for the NHLPA and the players, I will have no further comment at this time regarding my departure. The matter is being discussed by my legal representatives and those of the NHLPA."

Kelly supporters bolt from union

There will be a few more jobs to fill in the NHLPA front office as three members have cut ties with the organization after Kelly's dismissal, with the most recent being former director of player affairs Glenn Healy.

Healy resigned Thursday, following assistant director of player affairs and Kelly supporter Pat Flatley and Bob Lundquist, a union accounting consultant who had left earlier on the week.

With files from the Canadian Press