Keystone Kops at the NHLPA
It seems unlikely the suits at the NHL Players' Association deliberately sought out a friend of Alan Eagleson's to submit a legal opinion on Paul Kelly.
Even these guys aren't that stupid.
No, it was more likely ineptitude and mean-spiritedness that has landed the union in the soup again. See, it wasn't enough for the coup plotters who have seized control of the hapless organization to fire Kelly. No, they had to try and find a way to smear him as well. But in their zest to pile on, to try and convince a skeptical hockey world that Kelly was guilty of some terrible breach of trust and had to be canned just as Ted Saskin had to be canned, they ended up making fools of themselves.
Bigger fools, that is.
And if Kelly had to be fired, then what of interim executive director Ian Penny who, in his dual role as NHLPA general counsel, had to have approved the plan to hire Roy McMurtry to give a legal opinion on Kelly's firing? McMurtry, paid by the union to give an opinion on whether the union had done the right thing in removing Kelly, concluded that was indeed the case.
What he didn't tell Penny, or what Penny was too asleep at the wheel to figure out, is that in opining on Kelly, McMurtry was in a mild to serious conflict as a friend and political associate of Eagleson.
The same guy Kelly once put in jail. The same guy who is Voldemort to the PA.
It's unclear what the extent is or was of McMurty's relationship with Eagleson, but it was enough that the union quickly disavowed his legal opinion last night.
Now, surely the vigilant Andrew Ference, the Boston Bruins defenceman who has suddenly become a major force in the union and still insists Kelly had to be fired at 4 a.m. in the morning a month ago, will now insist that Penny should be fired for such an egregious error. Otherwise, some might start to wonder aloud if Ference is just carrying water for exiled ombudson Eric Lindros, an avowed enemy of Kelly's.
All along, Kelly and his supporters have insisted he was railroaded and that his enemies within the union - specifically Penny and advisory board members Ron Pink and Ian Troop - were guilty of breaching the union's constitution over and over.
Now this latest episode. If the union needed an outside legal opinion on Kelly's conduct as PA executive director, why wasn't McMurtry or somebody else retained before Kelly was fired, not after? Why has there been no similar review of Penny, who magically landed a new five-year contract last June?
And after Kelly was supposedly found guilty of breach of trust, how will Ference or Penny or Buzz Hargrove handle the apparently deliberate leaking of a confidential union legal opinion?
Clearly, after decapitating Kelly and losing Glenn Healy, Pat Flatley and others, there is apparently no viable leadership at all at the PA these days. Instead of getting on with the business of the union, those left in charge are fighting a political rear action against an imaginary attacker, wasting more of the players' union dues every day.
So many questions. So little competence.