Chelios wants players to reconsider

9/30/2009 - NHL

More than four weeks after the executive board of the NHL Players Association fired executive director Paul Kelly in a 22-5 vote at 3 a.m., a number of player representatives continue to debate the decision, according to sources.

Chris Chelios, the league's most senior player, made an impassioned 30-minute plea in a players-only conference call on Monday, demanding an investigation of Kelly's dismissal, the rescission of a five-year contract awarded in June to Ian Penny, the union's general counsel and interim executive director, and dismissals of interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove and advisory board chairman Ron Pink.

Although some players voiced their disagreements with Chelios' suggestions during and after the call, the group agreed that it would continue to ponder the issues and that the situation would be addressed again in a conference call on Sunday in the season's first scheduled meeting of the team representatives on the executive board.

In the interim, players are expected elect their representatives for the executive board; the Kelly dismissal will be the central issue in the elections.

Chelios and others have questioned the validity of Kelly's dismissal, arguing that excluding Kelly from board meetings violated the union's complex constitution. Kelly and a battery of six lawyers are examining the circumstances of the meeting and other union actions to determine whether Kelly will challenge it, sources said.

Three teams (Carolina, Ottawa, and San Jose) had no representatives at the late August meeting when Kelly was ousted, sources said. The five teams who voted against Kelly's dismissal were Anaheim (George Parros); Columbus (Manny Malhotra); Detroit (Chelios); Edmonton (Shawn Horcoff); and Chicago (Adam Burish).

Even as he serves as the group's interim leader, Penny is under attack by a number of players and agents. As the union's top lawyer, he has lost four consecutive player grievances. During his time with the union, he has lost more grievances than he has won.

Both Hargrove and Pink were heavily involved in the efforts that led to Kelly's dismissal. Hargrove is a former official of the auto workers union in Canada, and Pink was a candidate for executive director when the union selected Kelly. The anti-Kelly faction also included former union ombudsman Eric Lindros and union pension chief Kim Murdock.

Although Kelly will not discuss the situation, many players are asking whether he would consider returning to the union. A person close to Kelly, who wishes to remain unidentified because of the sensitivity of the issues, said: "Paul is devoted to the players. He is interested only in their welfare and want them to have honest and effective leadership. If he is asked to return, he would give it serious consideration."

Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.