Saskin: Players' lawsuit 'completely without merit'

10/3/2006 - NHL

TORONTO -- The head of the NHL Players' Association says a lawsuit filed by a group of dissident players is baseless.

"The claims issued in the complaint are the same claims that have been made repeatedly over the last 13 months by this tiny group," union executive director Ted Saskin told The Canadian Press in an interview Tuesday. "These claims, including the offensive allegations of illegal conduct, are completely without merit as has already been demonstrated in many forums on a number of occasions."

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. federal court by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson and former player Trent Klatt.

In addition to Saskin, the suit also names former union president Trevor Linden, St. Louis Blues winger Bill Guerin and retired players Vincent Damphousse and Bob Boughner, all former members of the NHLPA's executive committee.

The lawsuit asks the court to remove Saskin as executive director, alleging he -- along with Linden and other union members -- repeatedly violated the union's constitution. The dissidents charge that Saskin 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."

The suit, filed in U.S. Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois, came nearly three months after a union meeting in British Columbia that was thought to be the closing chapter of the infighting.

Linden stepped down as president at that meeting, and the union elected an interim executive committee and formed a committee to revise the union's constitution.

Mathieu Schneider of the Red Wings, Kevyn Adams of the Carolina Hurricanes, Alyn McCauley of the Los Angeles Kings, Wade Redden and
Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars were elected to the interim committee. A new president
hasn't been chosen.

Saskin said the British Columbia meeting closed the book on the matter, and he questioned why the dissidents continued their opposition.

"It serves no useful purpose for this very small group who clearly have no mandate or support from the general membership to continue to bring up matters that have already been addressed in order to satisfy the personal agendas of a few players, agents and lawyers," Saskin said.

"The overwhelming majority of NHLPA members have come together to move forward as an association and this nonsense will not distract us from the work we are doing, staying focused on continuing to grow our sport," he said.