Hockey Night in Canada

NHLPA fires executive director Ted Saskin

Ted Saskin was dismissed Thursday as executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

Ted Saskin was dismissed Thursday as executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

The NHLPA's executive board,composed of 30 player representatives and an interim executive committee, voted via a conference call to severe ties with Saskin, who was in the second year of a five-year contract reportedly worth $10 million US.

Saskin reportedly received nearly $750,000 US in accrued vacation pay and union shares.

"I remain proud of all the work I did for NHL players over the last 16 years," Saskin told the Canadian Press in an e-mail.

"And particularly, in negotiating the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] which has been working out well. I will work towards a fair resolution of my contractual rights with the NHLPA and wish them well in the future."

"I doubt it is over," said Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, who spearheaded the movement to have Saskin dismissed.

"We haven't heard from Ted yet. But it was a unanimous vote today, which was nice."

Saskin and Ken Kim, the union's head of business development, had been on suspended leave with pay since March 11, when union members voted to retain outside counsel to conduct an investigation into allegations that the duo had monitored NHLPA player e-mails.

"This campaign of e-mail surveillance was wholly improper, and was conducted over an extended period of time," Toronto lawyer Chris Paliare concluded in a three-page report, a copy of which was obtained by the Toronto Star.

"The surveillance was not aimed at protecting the interests of the players, it was not in the interest of the 'PA. Rather, in purpose and execution, the surveillance was principally in aid of Mr. Saskin's personal interests."

"With the report we saw from Chris Paliare, there were things going on that just should not have been going on," said Phoenix Coyotes forward Kevyn Adams, a member of the interim executive committee.

"But I also think, just as importantly, we have been though a lot. There has been so much uncertainty, we need to get some stability and move forward.

"We need to get on the same page. Hopefully, we can move ahead together, as a group, after today."

Lawsuit dismissed

On Jan. 22, Northern District of Illinois federal court judge Suzanne Conlon rejected a lawsuit filed by Chelios, Trent Klatt and Dwayne Roloson against Saskin and four former player executives, who argued that it should have been submitted to a court in Ontario.

The lawsuit asked that Saskin be removed as executive director of the NHLPA, alleging that he repeatedly violated the union's constitution, that he was "improperly elected, he misrepresented salary figures during negotiations and he illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars in union funds for his own benefit."

But Conlon ruled in Saskin's favour because the union is based in Ontario, most witnesses reside in the province and Canadian law applies there.

The lawsuit was filed last Oct. 2, three months following a meeting in Whistler, B.C., at which Trevor Linden stepped down as president,

At the same time, Mathieu Schneider, Alyn McCauley, Wade Redden and Daniel Alfredsson were elected interim executive members, and a committee was struck to revise the union's constitution.

"We're all on the same page," Chelios said. "We're moving forward."

Saskin succeeded Bob Goodenow as union head on July 28, 2005, in the wake of a resolution to a lengthy lockout of NHL players that resulted in the union accepting a salary cap.

Saskin's hiring went unquestioned at first, except by a small group of dissident players, whose persistence eventually led to a groundswell of support for his ouster.

The dissidents, led by Chelios, Klatt and Roloson, contended that Saskin's hiring as union boss was validated by a conference call and not secret ballot as dictated by union bylaws.

Toronto lawyer Sheila Block is conducting an internal review of what transpired within the NHLPA since Goodenow was replaced.

Her findings will be released this summer.

With files from the Canadian Press