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Saturday, January 27, 2007
NHL Players Approve Independent Investigation of Saskin's Hiring

On Thursday this week, a majority of the 30 NHLPA-player representatives approved an independent investigation into the hiring of executive director Ted Saskin. Back in June, 2005, the union accepted a collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout and for the first time contained a salary cap, which ran counter to the views that former executive director Bob Goodenow expressed in negotiations with the league. Shortly thereafter on July 28 2005, Goodenow was dismissed and, that same day, Saskin was hired as executive director.

Last October, I discussed the lawsuit filed against the NHLPA by a large dissident group of players alleging that "Saskin was never properly nominated for the position by the executive board." That lawsuit was dismissed this week by a federal court in Illinois for lack of jurisdiction. The judge agreed with the NHLPA that Ontario was the proper situs for the suit. Three days later, the players approved the investigation. Mathieu Schneider, a Detroit Red Wings defenseman and interim NHLPA executive committee member, said, "The purpose of the investigation is to clear the air, produce clarity on these questions and fortify a strong unified union."

Schneider would make a good politician some day. But in all sincerity, Schneider is absolutely right. An independent investigation makes perfect sense here because there is such a large dissident group of players. The last thing the players need is dissension among themselves. Also, an investigation is more efficient and cost-effective than a long drawn out discovery process tied up in court. Furthermore, the players don't need to convince a judge or jury whether Saskin should be removed or not; the players just need to convince themselves.

There appears to be some unanswered questions about exactly what information was disclosed to the player representative executive board members regarding the salary cap and the hiring of Saskin, and whether the players were fully informed in order to make proper decisions. The investigation will probably not provide all the answers. But the results of the investigation will either strengthen or weaken the dissident players' case and lead to a speedier resolution of this dispute, which serves the best interest of all the players and Saskin as well.


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