Saskin denies e-mail charge; union, board to meet

TORONTO -- NHL union chief Ted Saskin on Thursday denied monitoring player e-mails, contending predecessor Bob Goodenow ordered such actions. Goodenow denied the allegation.

Saskin's future as executive director of the NHL Players' Association could be decided Sunday night when the NHLPA confers with its executive board. The board is composed of player representatives from all 30 NHL teams and the seven-member interim executive committee.

"I plan to address the board on Sunday night, and the board will learn that Bob Goodenow had instructed NHLPA employees to review player e-mail accounts and this occurred during the lockout and I was not aware of this until much later," Saskin told The Canadian Press.

Goodenow, in a statement though lawyer Jane Milburn, said: "I am unaware of an instance where the security of a single player's e-mail or other personal information was compromised."

Accusations that NHLPA executives monitored player e-mails were reported in the Toronto Star, along with the fact that Toronto police were investigating. The Star reported that police had been looking into allegations that Saskin and NHLPA executive Ken Kim directed technical support staff to access player e-mail accounts and that the findings were presented to authorities. The e-mail system the players use is administered by the NHLPA.

Saskin had restricted his comments until Thursday to a statement Monday saying no illegal activity has gone on at the NHLPA.

The 30 player reps could vote to fire Saskin and Kim, a step that would require 16 of the 30 votes. Only player reps will vote. Two sources familiar with the union's plans told the Star that neither Saskin nor Kim is expected to be on the NHLPA's Sunday conference call.

The union turmoil follows a contentious labor agreement in which the NHLPA yielded to a salary cap.

Saskin first joined the NHLPA in 1992. He replaced Goodenow as executive director on July 28, 2005, a move that brought protests from Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios and former executive committee member Trent Klatt, now retired as a player.

The dissident group alleges proper procedure wasn't followed in the hiring. The anti-Saskin faction has grown the last two seasons. Chelios has been dogged in his efforts despite a failed lawsuit and unsuccessful attempts to use the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. National Labor Relations Board.

The current executive committee won't have a vote Sunday night because it is acting in an interim capacity. The members are Mathieu Schneider of Detroit, Kevyn Adams of Phoenix, Alyn McCauley of Los Angeles, Wade Redden and Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa and Marty Turco of Dallas. President Trevor Linden stepped down last summer and has yet to be replaced.

Saskin's ability to lead the union has been challenged on many occasions during his two-year tenure. The most recent example before this week came Feb. 25, when a majority of the 30 union-player reps approved an independent investigation into Saskin's hiring.

The investigation "will preserve the integrity of our NHLPA constitution and leadership process," Schneider said then. "The purpose of the investigation is to clear the air, produce clarity on these questions and fortify a strong unified union."

News of that investigation came three days after a lawsuit against Saskin and others was dismissed by a U.S. federal court in Illinois. The judge agreed with the NHLPA position that Ontario rather than Illinois should host such a lawsuit, if indeed it was even warranted.

Saskin is under a five-year contract that is paying him an average $2.13 million annually, another complaint of the union's membership in this era of the NHL salary cap; Saskin's salary is roughly double that of Don Fehr, who is head of the Major League Baseball Players' Association.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.