Monday, March 12, 2007

NHLPA removes Saskin

The Globe and Mail is reporting tonight that, as a result of the late-night conference call between player representatives, NHLPA heads Ted Saskin and Ken Kim have been suspended indefinitely.
  • David Shoalts also has a good column for Monday's paper that gives you a good idea of some of the longstanding problems within the players' union:
    With the NHLPA, nothing is ever clear, which is why it finds itself in the muck today. During the past week, once the e-mail scandal surfaced, I spent a lot of time on the telephone talking to former employees of the NHLPA. None of them wanted to speak on the record, but they all had two points in common — Goodenow was not an easy man to work for and the union was a dysfunctional workplace long before Saskin took over.
    Part of the consensus that is slowly being reached with all of this business is that, while it's probably fair that Saskin's getting the boot here, he was also placed into a pretty difficult position, one in which his 'clients' were (for the most part) disinterested in the union and where the league was looking to exert its considerable influence over him.
As for the conference call tonight, well, the player reps certainly didn't take their time making their decision. The call was scheduled for after the conclusion of games being played on the West Coast in Anaheim and San Jose so that all reps could take part, and news began to hit the media a short time later that Saskin had been punted out of office.

One anonymous player who was on the call offered up this gem to the Canadian Press soon afterwards: "Ted is done."

Not that we didn't see that coming.

One curious aspect of the whole business is fleshed out a little in Shoalts's piece, where he reveals that Saskin has to be kept in the fold somewhat because he is, at the moment, the only one with in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of the deal he negotiated with the ownership groups in the summer of 2005:
Saskin is the only person in the NHLPA who thoroughly understands hockey-related revenue, the money the club owners declare from their operations, and how it applies to the collective agreement. Without him, the players would be at the mercy of the owners.
Not that they aren't already. (Keep in mind that Stu 'Grim Reaper' Grimson is now the man steering this sinking ship.)

As for the implications of all this union fracas of the past few weeks, maybe it's best if I pose just one pertinent question: Do you think it's more — or less — likely that the next round of CBA negotiations head in the direction of a lockout now that Saskin has been turfed?

Given the by-the-book hard ass the PA is likely to bring in to succeed him, I think we all know the answer to that one.

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At 11:20 a.m., March 12, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Even if the PA brings in a "hard ass" to replace Saskin, it's not clear if the players will have the stomach for another lengthy labour war.

For that matter, I doubt there'll be much support for such a battle amongst the owners. Sure, they kept a united front last time, but even they recognize their victory was pyrrhic.

It's in the best interest of both sides that the next round of labour talks result in a mutually beneficial agreement. This league cannot stand another lengthy labour war that costs part or all of a season.

That's not "pie in the sky" or "head in the sand" thinking. It's reality, and I believe both sides recognize that now.


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