If you're wondering whether this internal NHLPA battle is going to turn ugly, it already has.
Those who were on the conference call last Thursday during which the union's player reps approved an investigation of the organization's business practices and the process that led to the hiring of executive director Ted Saskin say it was a long, nasty call that included personal insults and threats as well as accusations of document shredding and tampering with private emails.
"The yelling and screaming back and forth was off the charts," said one player rep.
While all 30 player reps approved the probe, there was more of a fight over the appointment of high-profile lawyer Sheila Block of Toronto to lead the investigation. About 19 teams ultimately approved Block, but not before it was alleged she was too close to dissident union member Chris Chelios.
As first reported in the New York Post and confirmed by other sources yesterday, at one point Saskin refused to disconnect from the call, and finally a vote of 28-2 to force him off the line had to be taken.
Strange, really, given that he's an employee.
Some players reported suspicion over the number of lines occupied during the call. While there were supposed to be only 37 - 30 player reps, six executive committee members and Saskin - at one point the operator in charge of the conference call reported 42 connections.
Block's biggest challenge in her investigation may well be securing the co-operation of Saskin and currnet union executives given the bad blood that exists. That said, key sources of information for Block are expected to be former executive director Bob Goodenow, former union lawyer Ian Pulver, ex-player Trent Klatt who has be organizing against Saskin for months and former Chicago Blackhawks star Steve Larmer, who quit the union several months ago claiming democracy had been undermined.
And those guys all know where any bodies are buried.
One of the challenges for those supporting the investigation are allegations that Goodenow is the driving force behind the dissident group, a damaging claim given that it would then take on the appearance of doing the will of a fired executive with an axe to grind.
Several players insist that is not the case, that Goodenow hasn't even spoken to several of the more significant players in the anti-Saskin camp. But you can expect that those on the other side of this fight will want to make sure the allegation gets out there early and often.
What's next? Attack ads?
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