Monday, September 17, 2007

The NHLPA tapes

Former NHL Players’ Association executive directors Bob Goodenow and Ted Saskin routinely tape-recorded players, agents, NHL officials such as NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and officials of other sports unions, including NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw, without their permission or knowledge, according to a report issued to NHLPA members last month.

“It is wrong,” said an outraged Upshaw last week, upon learning that Saskin recorded what Upshaw thought was a private conversation in 2005.
The professional code of conduct governing attorneys in Ontario, Canada, prohibits lawyers from taping phone calls with clients or other attorneys without informing them they are doing so.

There's been some discussion here in Ontario that Saskin could potentially be disbarred for this conduct, although I'm afraid I don't have a handle on the legalities involved there.

What's incredibly interesting about the Sports Business Journal story is how Bill Daly is suddenly involved here, as he's attacking the results of the Block report and, apparently, defending Saskin, and the union released a statement saying that it was "important to note that Bill Daly was close to Ted Saskin so any comments regarding Bob Goodenow need to be viewed in that light."

Many players are also upset with the results of the Block report, something you could pick up on during the PA meetings a few weeks back:
Although they have not spoken out publicly, there is a growing rumbling of discontent about the Block report by the dissident group of union members that originally opposed Saskin.

“They are not angry with her conclusions, per se,” said a hockey source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “They are angry with her methodology, with her lack of thoroughness, with the fact that so many key people were not interviewed, and the fact she takes many leaps of faith and assumptions without any evidence to support them.”
Maybe so, but there's a lot that is in the report that is apparently fairly incendiary, especially for the league and union officials involved. Upshaw, in particular, is likely to stay far, far away from the NHLPA in the future, given all of his advice to Saskin is now a matter of record.

It's only a matter of time before the Block report comes out on a wider scale, but we're getting bits and pieces, and it's starting the war again.

Saskin's replacement is going to have to be a miracle worker.

UPDATE From the Law Society of Upper Canada:
6.03 (4) A lawyer shall not use a tape recorder or other device to record a conversation between the lawyer and a client or another licensee, even if lawful, without first informing the other person of the intention to do so.

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At 2:24 p.m., September 17, 2007, Blogger John said...

I thought we were getting out the other side of this NHLPA ugliness, but instead of cauterizing the wound, every revelation just seems to be making things worse.

What specifically are the dissident players unhappy about - that the Block report hasn't gone far enough, that it seems to have taken some shortcuts, or that Goodenow's name is being included in the witch-hunt?

At 2:32 p.m., September 17, 2007, Blogger Darrell said...

I think the dissident group started as a pro-Bob, anti-cap, anti-Saskin group. They were going nowhere had the NHLPA hired Saskin and dismissed Bob properly, and I believe that their initial motivation was pettiness. I suspect that they hate that Bob wasn't the perfect angel hey thought he was, and that most of the controversial things about Saskin (other than his hiring) were done by Bob as well.

Their press release attacking Daly is something truly special IMHO, as Daly didn't say anything outrageous, and I would think that while his view shouldn't be treated as gospel by the NHLPA, that it should be considered in the report. Especially when you can figure out based on these tapes whether or not he was telling the truth.

At 3:35 p.m., September 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's pretty rich. It's legal in Canada to tape-record a conversation as long as one party to the conversation is aware of it, but the weasels (aka lawyer/politicians) who wrote that law have an article of conduct that prohibits tape recording conversations unless the other party also knows about it. No wonder people hate #$@%^%*& lawyers.

At 3:42 p.m., September 17, 2007, Blogger John said...

Good points, darrell.

One other thing that struck me about the SBJ report, and let me know if I am missing something.

Block report comes out.
Daly gets defensive since he was not interviewed.
NHLPA says they weren't consulted about the Levitt report (nyah, nyah).

How the heck does the Block report have anything to do with the Levitt report? The Block report concerns the workings of the NHLPA and an attempt to figure out what went on under previous stewardship(s); the Levitt report was attempted to be integrated as a basis for the CBA between the NHL and the NHLPA.

So while the NHLPA had a right to be peeved regarding the Levitt report; why would the NHL give a rat's behind about an NHLPA internal report? Why would an NHLPA statement bring that up?

At 4:46 p.m., September 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Darrell's comments are right on.

As for taping conversations, as a retired business executive I can tell you it is quite common when dealing with problem clients, contractors and business partners, etc. or when dismissing employees.

This applies to both telephone conversations and actual face to face meetings, with a recorder in a suit pocket or in the meeting room.. As long as you are involved in the conversation, it is quite legal to record it without disclosing this to the other party (Canada).

With the cost of recording and storing voice data declining, more and more telephone conversations are being reorded by businesses every day.

I would advise anyone who thinks they might be having their conversations recorded to simply ask the other party if they are recording the conversation. If they say yes, tell them to stop. If they say no, and still record the conversation, it will be invalid in court.

If you are dealing with someone on a regular business basis, get them to sign a waiver that they will never record your conversations (telephone or face to face meetings) without prior authorization.

I believe Saskin and Goodenow were acting as administrative officers of the NHLPA - and not as the NHLPA's legal counsel. Therefore there was no solicitor client relationship which would have prohibited the taping of their telephone conversations. Also, they are free to tape conversations with other lawyers provided the conversations do not involve a solicitor client issue for either party. However, I'm not a lawyer so I may be wrong on this.

At 10:21 a.m., September 18, 2007, Blogger George said...

Regardless of whatever the dissidents' early motivations were, they evolved into a much-maligned faction that doggedly and persistently worked to rebuild the PA as a union that operates openly and is accountable to its constituents--as an honest labour union.

It would not surprise me if some of the dissidents are amongst the critics of the Block Report, because, by all indications, many details were glossed over because of the widespread belief that players want to move past an ugly chapter in their history and "get on with it."

If Block had been more thorough, it's highly likely that the messy details surrounding the palace coup that led to the installation of Saskin as the executive director--by a small group of so-called "executive" players who chose to seize control of the union and steer the CBA negotiations based upon their own concerns (and possibly the concerns of a small faction of elite players and agents) instead of those of the union's membership--would come to light, and it's highly likely that both lawsuits and further fracturing of the players association's membership, because the union would have to determine whether to sue several members of the executive board, star members of the union, and player agents for their actions.

The full story of what happened between the presentation of the PA's December 9, 2004 proposal and the PA's eventual acceptance of a capped and linkaged CBA will never be known because the "get on with it" and "whatever Linden and Guerin did, they tried to represent our best interests" groups would be willing to engage in another war against the dissidents if the truth were to come to light.

It's also interesting that there's no mention of who actually made those incendiary statements against Daly as a representative of the PA as a whole, and it's always worth mentioning that any observations of the PA in the media are subject to bending and twisting in order to project an NHL-friendly party line.


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