Monday, October 02, 2006

Klatt and Dissidents Sue Saskin and Linden

In its history, the NHLPA has rarely been as fractured as it is post-lockout. Trent Klatt led a group of unhappy players to challenge the way Ted Saskin was brought in to end the lockout. They argue that it violated the NHLPA constitution the way Bob Goodenow was replaced without a majority vote among membership. Ted Saskin then negotiated a pro-owner lockout settlement that has many players unhappy.

While Ted Saskin has spent a large amount of time trying to maintain his job and consolidating power hoping that the unhappy players would just retire and leave him alone. This isn't happening.

They unsuccessfully challenged this issue with the American Labor Relations Board and just when it looked like they would go away, they are back.

This group of players (including Chris Chelios and Dwayne Roloson) are suing Ted Saskin, Trevor Linden, Bill Guerin, Bob Boughner and Vincent Damphousse - all members of the executive committee that ousted Goodenow and installed Saskin for damages relating to the results of the NHLPA not following its own constitution.

At issue is the lockout settlement. These players are unhappy with losing a year to eventually cave to the owners and want some kind of ruling or compensation to acknowledge that it was wrong.

What can actually be done? I'm not sure this court case has much standing, but it is another headache for Ted Saskin. Another reason to prevent him from consolidating power. Another reason for change in the NHLPA.

The NHLPA has been nearly useless to the players. Its biggest "victory" of the past year is a REDUCTION in the salary cap this season. Some players are wondering why the NHLPA exists and if the would be better off without it.

Likely this lawsuit wont lead to anything tangible, but there is always a chance we will be surprised. A big enough suprise could change the business of hockey tremendously.

Here is TSN's story on the lawsuit.

Don't expect this lawsuit to amount to anything. This has been filed by a group of Goodenow loyalists who feel Bob was stabbed in the back by Saskin, Linden and others. Most of them are well over thirty and are intensely loyal to Goodenow - with good reason - for all he brought them.

As for the PA being "fractured", you're talking a small group of disgruntled players, a vague number totalling anywhere between 60 to 100 players, although that information seems to change depending on which of the loyalists you talk to.

Taking into account the PA membership is over 700 players, that means barely one-seventh of the membership is upset with the current PA leadership. The remaining 6/7s has no problem with it and in fact voted overwhelmingly to endorse it.
That's hardly a "fractured" membership.

Indeed, the Goodenow loyalists cannot seem to make up their minds. They claimed this summer's meetings went a long way to "bury the hatchet", then turn around three months later and launch a baseless lawsuit they have little hope of winning after all their previous efforts to bring down Saskin have been thwarted at every turn.

As for your claims of some players wondering why the PA exists, again that's obviously a small group. I haven't heard or seen anything, anywhere, suggesting this is a growing opinion amongst the players.

Of course we don't know the circumstances behind Goodenow's ouster and probably won't know for several years due to his signing non-disclosure agreements, but whether you love or hate Saskin, he seems to have the confidence of the majority of players, who seem happy with how things are going thus far under the current CBA.

That might change over time if as you've suggested in previous posts that this deal hinders rather than hurts them over the course of it, but over a year later that has yet to come to pass.

Should revenues continue to increase, and it's a good bet that they will, the players still stand to make out well financially, and escrow could continue to be a paper tiger. Even if the players don't get their escrow money back this season, it may be only single digit percentages, which isn't likely to trigger discontent for Saskin.

Time will tell, but thus far there's little to substantiate claims that Saskin's job is in trouble, that the majority of players are unhappy with this CBA, or that the Goodenow loyalists efforts to take Saskin to the woodshed will be successful.
Taking into account that the PA membership is over 700 players and most of them know nothing about NHLPA politics and don't get involved, 60 to 100 players actively speaking out againstz it is significant. It does NOT mean the other 600 have no problem with the current PA leadership. It just means that they are not invoved in the issue. Most are ignorant about the situation. Some are happy with it. I think the ignorant group is the largest faction of the NHLPA.

I agree that likely nothing of substance comes from this lawsuit.
If the majority are as ignorant as you claim, then it may be years, perhaps decades, before they realize their plight.

However, while acknowledging there are some players likely disinterested or ignorant of the process, I disagree with you that most aren't involved or aware. Indeed, the current membership is perhaps the best informed ever in NHLPA history.

Most supported Goodenow when the lockout started but by March 2005 wanted the lockout to end because they didn't want to risk losing another season of hockey. That was the incentive that drove Saskin and Linden to approach Goodenow and inform him that he no longer had the support of the majority of players. They were willing to accept cost certainty but wanted to get the best deal they could.

That of course upset what turned out to be a minority of players who were Goodenow loyalist, most of whom had already made their millions under Goodenow and were willing to risk the loss of another season.

They're the ones who've filed this lawsuit, but they don't have the support of most of the NHLPA.

It remains to be seen if those like Chelios, Roloson and Klatt will be proven right about how Goodenow lost his job and Saskin's rise to power. It remains to be seen if this CBA is indeed a bad deal overall for the players as you and other critics of the deal suggest.

But one thing is clear, and that is the fact that the efforts of those Goodenow loyalists do not have the support of the majority of the PA. Their efforts have come to naught to dethrone Saskin and will likely come to naught again. These guys are to be commended for sticking by Goodenow, but they clearly need to let this go as it now appears to be more motivated by bitter vendetta rather than an effort to improve the PA.
I think the point is that NOBODY has the majority support of the NHLPA.

There are two factions who are politically active in the "Goodenow loyalists" and the "Saskin loyalists" (and those labels are far two simple). I would venture both groups might only be 100 players at best.

Then there is the majority group - call them the swing voters. They are morre than half of the union. Players who dont care just as long as they have an NHL career. This group is available to be won over by either side but won't rock the boat unless something big forces them to.

The typical NHLPA member is relatively new to the NHL. May not have been around for the lockout. Hopes to have a long career but probably wont. Is either foreign (European) or not too well educated in North America. What happens to a union that he will be a member of for 150 games is the least of his concerns. If they give him a good deal a bad deal or no deal thats not his problem - keeping his NHL job is his problem.

There is one group that can swing a lot of opinions. The agents. If they all jumped to one side in a decisive manner that would bring a majority of players with it.

Right now Ted Saskin is in charge - he has done nothing much to help the players and unless a united challenge comes (and not a fractured one) he will stay in charge.

Probably nothing comes from this challenge, but the potential is there that if things get bad this could spark some significant changes.
Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.

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