Veteran defenceman Chris Chelios is among five players who will lead the search for a new NHL players union boss. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

The NHL Players' Association announced a five-man committee on Thursday that willspearhead efforts to find a replacement for firedunion boss Ted Saskin.

"We're walking out of here with a positive attitude," Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios said as three days of meetings wrapped up in Toronto. "It's been a long two years. Obviously we've been damaged and there's been a crisis.…

"I've been through the glory days, some of the best days, and those days are in the near future."

Chelios, a 45-year-old veteran of 23 NHL seasons who led the fight against Saskin's controversial hiring in August 2005, was among five active players selected to head the search committee for a new NHL Players' Association executive director.

"I feel an obligation to finish what I started," said Chelios, who was among 20 player representatives to meet this week at a downtown Toronto hotel.

Mike Cammalleri of the Los Angeles Kings, Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers, Eric Lindros of the Dallas Stars and Robyn Regehr of the Calgary Flames will head up the committee with Chelios.

The group will start identifying and interviewing potential candidates, but hasn't set a timetable for naming the successor to Saskin, who was fired in May over accusations that he ordered the reading of players' e-mails. A full investigative report on the matter is expected in August from Toronto lawyer Sheila Block.

"We will not be rushed. That's what got us in this situation," Chelios said with a laugh, referring to what many felt was Saskin's rushed hiring as the replacement forBob Goodenow. "So we'll take our time. It's going to be decided as a group."

Significant salary-cap increase expected

Also on the table for the player reps on Thursday was a proposed increase to the NHL's salary cap. Ian Penny, NHLPA associate counsel, is expected to finalize next season's cap figure with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Friday. The number, which is tied to league revenues, is expected torise tomore than $50 million US, up from $44 million this past season.

The three-day meeting also included addresses from Major League Baseball Players' Association boss Donald Fehr, labour lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, former NBA union executive Charles Grantham, former NHLPA employee and hockey star Steve Larmer, former goalie and longtime NHLPA pension trustee Glenn Healy,and Susan Foster, widow of former player and union crusader Carl Brewer.

The next gathering for the union will be its annual general meeting at the end of August in Toronto, where it's hoped hundreds of players will show up.

"The August meetings will be big," said Lindros. "The more people you have, the merrier. We're going to banging around a bunch of issues. And we'll see where we stand in terms of our search."

With files from the Canadian Press