Paul Kelly introduced as new NHLPA boss

Boston lawyer Paul Kelly was formally introduced Wednesday as the new executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

Boston lawyer Paul Kelly was formally introduced Wednesday as the new executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

The 52-year-old Boston lawyer said at a news conference in Toronto that he's looking forward to what he believes will be a prosperous new chapter for the union.

"I really do believe that it's a new day. I want it to be a positive relationship between the NHL Players' Association and the league," Kelly told the Canadian Press after the conference. "I think we owe it to the fans to put that lockout/work stoppage and all of those issues behind us.

"To focus on the game, win back our traditional fans, develop new young fans, do a better job of marketing our young stars of the game, do a better job of the TV coverage and the media attention particularly down in the United States."

Kelly was selected to succeed Ted Saskin in a secret ballot by the 30 player representatives, one from each NHL team, on Tuesday. He also signed an incentive-laden deal that reportedly could approach $2 million a year if he achieves all those goals.

Saskin was removed May 10 amid allegations that he and Ken Kim, the union's head of business development, monitored players' e-mails.

Kelly was nominated Oct. 15 to replace Saskin as executive director following an exhaustive search by a five-player committee consisting of Mike Cammalleri, Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Lindros and Robyn Regehr, with the help of Reilly Partners, a Chicago headhunting firm.

"He has unquestioned integrity and that's very important to us," said Cammalleri.

Added Horcoff:"I just came away really impressed from the first time I met him. On top of his qualifications and everything that he's going to bring, the biggest thing is that he's a good communicator.

"He's going to be able to go out there, really get to know each player, and they'll get to really know him. And I don't think we really had that in the past."

Kelly feels strongly about helping to put the game back on stronger footing south of the border. He'll push hard on behalf of the players to have a bigger say in how the NHL markets and brands the game.

Kelly is a partner at Kelly, Libby and Hoopes, a Boston law firm specializing in complex civil and administrative litigation.

He was the assistant district attorney involved in a grand jury investigation into Alan Eagleson, the NHLPA's first executive director.

Eagleson's dark past

Eagleson was indicted by a Boston grand jury and, in 1998, pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud.

He was fined $700,000 US and, later that year, pleaded guilty in a Toronto court to three more counts of fraud and embezzling proceeds from the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup tournaments.

Eagleson was sentenced to 18 months in prison and served six months at the Mimico Correctional Centre in Toronto before being released.

Kelly said during his news conference that he hopes to sit down with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the near future and get to know him on a personal level.

"My view of the world is that unless you have a personal relationship, a really human relationship with someone, it's difficult to get down and transact difficult business with that person if you're always dealing at this distant level," said Kelly. "So I want to get to know Gary and I want him to get to know me.

"I understand that there is a line there, that we represent different interests and from time to time we may have different views of some difficult issues, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a healthy respect for one another …"

The players have the right to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2008-09 season — two years early. Kelly has read the document three times already.

"I think from my initial understanding that it has some positive portions and there are some portions which frankly are questionable and may need to be revisited," said Kelly.

With files from the Canadian Press