Sunday, September 02, 2007

The NHLPA meetings
Shawn Horcoff: The new face of the PA

Of all the players I had a chance to hear from on Friday, Shawn Horcoff surprised me the most.

It's really no secret that the NHLPA is getting younger in the wake of the scandal involving former executive director Ted Saskin, something that's often attributed to the veterans wanting little to do with the mess the players' union has become. But if the Edmonton Oilers rep is any indication, having the affairs handled by the younger set shouldn't be a problem.

Horcoff comes across as quite articulate and intelligent, someone who obviously paid attention during the three days of meetings in Toronto and plans on playing a big part in reshaping the PA. The product of school teacher parents back in small town Castlegar, B.C., Horcoff picked up a degree in finance and math while playing four years at Michigan State, and you get the sense he's not at all phased by the mountains of legalese coming out in the various reports being released.

He's exactly the type the union needs at the helm.

Horcoff had an early flight to catch and was the first player to speak to the media on Friday afternoon.

"It’s pretty much just all of our concerns being confirmed," he said of the Block report. "I think it’s nice that the whole membership is privy to it now and has seen what’s gone on, and knows that the right thing was done in getting rid of Ted and moving on and in the right direction.

"I’ve been involved with the PA pretty extensively this summer so, for me, I think it was pretty reassuring that all our concerns were confirmed and we know we’ve done the right thing in absolving Ted of his duties and that we’re all moving in the right direction. We’re going to have a stronger union than we ever had before, and I think it took something like that to make the necessary and much-needed adjustments to the union."

He's not kidding about being a big part of the union's work this summer; I talked with some of the NHLPA staff about Horcoff's contributions, and they said he had been one of the most diligent players.

He's also one of the players on the committee in charge of finding Saskin's replacement.

"We feel very comfortable with how the PA is functioning (without a leader), and it’s not like we’re in a huge rush to get a new executive director," Horcoff said. "There’s not really any huge pressing issues (to deal with).

"It won’t be too long until we have a leader again.

"[The next executive director] is going to have to be a builder, he's going to have to learn every team and every player and every name," he said. "He's going to have to get everyone onside again, build it back up to the strength it has had in the past."

Horcoff also had kind words for Chris Chelios: "Our membership is going to be way better off for years to come because of his persistence.

"There’s been mistakes, and holes and weaknesses that have been in the PA for many, many years now and it’s just taken something like what Ted did to really bring it to light. It's going to be a whole new union."

For their sake, hopefully one built around players like Horcoff.

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