Sunday, November 20, 2005

NHLPA In Bad Shape

Ever since their collapse in the lockout and the players accepted defeat, the NHLPA's future has been in jeopardy. Longterm NHLPA head Bob Goodenow was forced out as NHLPA head and replaced by Ted Saskin who had lead the players to their defeat. Saskin's installation as the new leader was not done according to the NHLPA's own bylaws and this has upset a faction of players. Trent Klatt is leading a player rebellion that is challenging this move. The NHLPA is a group that is on the verge of collapse.

More bad news was released yesterday. Longtime NHLPA player relations director Steve Larmer has resigned his post. In his resignation letter, he writes:

What has happened over the last nine months and more so in the last 90 days has led me to make a tough decision. I am resigning because this organization has taken a giant step backwards, back to the days of (Alan) Eagleson where a select few made decisions for the group.

Larmer had been a very respected NHLPA executive among the players. His departure further shows the disarray in the NHLPA leadership.

Alan Eagleson was a corrupt NHLPA leader who went to jail for fraud and racketeering after stealing from the NHL players. The NHLPA only gained power after he left them. A return to the Eagleson days would be a nightmare fore the players.

Saskin responds to Larmer's criticism:

I find this very unfortunate since he has not received accurate information on recent events and has never discussed any of his concerns with me. Steve is obviously entitled to his own opinions and while I don't agree with his stated reasons for his resignation, I certainly respect his right to do so.

This actually confirms Larmer's point. As an NHLPA executive, he still was not able to get "accurate information on recent events" that is limited to the select few who make NHLPA decisions on behalf of all the players.

Should the NHLPA wish to remain with any power, they need more openness in their decision making. They need an open vote on a new leader. Saskin would be one candidate, but there would be other candidates who are likely more hardline and more willing to fight the owners on a new deal for the players. The players would need to unite behind their new leader.

On the other hand, it is a legitimate idea that maybe the NHLPA should disband. If all they are doing is giving back to the owners and not protecting the players, the players would likely be better off without them and subject to the same employment laws the rest of the world are. This may happen not as a tactic to help their position in future CBA negotiation but due to the failure of current NHLPA leadership.

Here is the Toronto Star article on the Larmer resignation.

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