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Group questions process leading to Saskin's hire

9/13/2005 - NHL

TORONTO -- Ted Saskin has asked the executive board of the NHL Players' Association to vote again on his five-year deal as the new executive director -- this time by secret ballot.

Despite overwhelming support from player reps during a conference call with the executive board Monday night, Saskin decided to reopen the vote. He wants to end criticism from a group of players that questioned the process by which Saskin was hired.

"After good dialogue with members of the executive board, I decided that it was in the best interests of the membership to conduct a secret ballot vote amongst our player representatives and executive officers so that there are absolutely no questions regarding my election," Saskin said in a statement released early Tuesday.

Ballots were sent to player reps around the league Tuesday morning, and the vote is expected to be completed by the end of the week. Saskin is expected to have his deal approved with a huge majority again.

The board, comprised of seven executive committee members and 30 players reps, voted 31-6 on Aug. 31 to approve Saskin's deal. But the vote was done by conference call and not by secret ballot -- in violation of the union's bylaws.

Marvin Miller, the founder of the major league baseball players'
union, told the Toronto Star on Monday night that the NHLPA may
have violated a U.S. labor law designed to make union elections
democratic.

"It's not good enough [for the NHLPA] to say they've done it
like this in the past,'' Miller said. "That's just an admission of
guilt. They've clearly violated their constitution and it makes it
possible that they could be looking at a civil and criminal
offense.''

A small group of players, led by Trent Klatt, who retired Monday, argued that Saskin was therefore improperly hired. The group, which also includes Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi and Wild player rep Dwayne Roloson, then asked for the resignation of Saskin and NHLPA president Trevor Linden.

Linden told The Canadian Press on Monday that he has no plans to quit.

"I've been elected by a group of players to carry out a job and I'll continue to do that," Linden told The CP from Canucks training camp. He also remains confident the majority of players support Saskin's hiring.

"Certainly there's some guys who don't agree. I've had conversations with most of them trying to talk them through our decision process. I'm fairly certain and comfortable the overwhelming majority of our association supports what we've done."

Support from players and agents around the league poured in Monday as word spread that the protesting group has hired a lawyer to possibly launch a lawsuit against Saskin.

"Everybody on our team supports Ted Saskin and Trevor Linden. There's no issue whatsoever," Avalanche center Joe Sakic said. "All the guys I talk to are happy with Ted.

"I can't believe this is even an issue. It's crazy. Here in Colorado, the focus is on training camp, where it should be," he added.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla was puzzled.

"This is amazing to me, I don't get it," he said. "No one on my team phoned me to express any displeasure with Ted's hiring. I can tell you that."

But Domi didn't change his stance.

"The process has to be conducted a little more properly," he said. "Trevor and Ted have worked hard on this, but they were part of the team that canceled the season, too.

"It's not up to those guys to make decisions. It's up to us 700 guys. I think that's where the frustration sets in with everybody," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.