Union fires Saskin during conference call

TORONTO -- The NHL Players' Association fired executive director Ted Saskin on Thursday, two months after placing him on a paid leave of absence following allegations that he and senior director Ken Kim read players' e-mails.

The union's executive board, made up of 30 player representatives and the six-member interim executive committee, voted to fire Saskin on a conference call.

"All I am going to say at this time is that I remain proud of all the work I did for NHL players over the last 16 years and particularly in negotiating the new CBA, which has been working out well," Saskin said. "I will work towards a fair resolution of my contractual rights with the NHLPA and wish them well in the future."

The NHLPA said it was considering its options with Kim and would have no further comment at this time.

"I doubt it's over," said Chris Chelios, the Detroit player who spearheaded the movement to fire Saskin. "We haven't heard from Ted yet. But it was a unanimous vote today, which was nice. We're all on the same page. We're moving forward."

Saskin and Kim were put on paid leaves in March, and Toronto employment lawyer Chris Paliare was subsequently retained as outside counsel to look into the situation.

An internal review into the hiring of Saskin, conducted by Toronto lawyer Sheila Block, is ongoing and expected to be completed this summer.

Saskin replaced Bob Goodenow as executive director on July 28, 2005, without other candidates being interviewed for the job. That sparked dissension from Chelios, former executive committee member Trent Klatt and former NHLPA executive Steve Larmer.

Saskin was in the second year of a five-year deal reportedly worth $10 million. He joined the NHLPA in 1992 and was credited with helping the union increase its revenue in the licensing department.

Players' association legal counsel Ian Penny and player reps Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers and Eric Lindros of the Dallas Stars will talk to leaders of the business world to get ideas on characteristics to look for in a new director. They will then report to the executive board in about 10 days, when the board hopes to put together a search committee.

No candidates will be looked at during the process.

Phoenix Coyotes forward Kevyn Adams, a longtime Saskin supporter, agreed it was time for a change.

"I just think with the report we saw from Chris Paliare there were things going on that just should not have been going on," said Adams, a member of the interim executive committee. "But I also think just as importantly, we've been though a lot, there's been so much uncertainty, we need to get some stability and move forward.

"We need to get on the same page. Hopefully we can move ahead together as a group after today," Adams said.

The turmoil within the union arose after Saskin helped negotiate the new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL that included a salary cap for the first time. Saskin was seen as the architect of the deal, which ended the yearlong lockout in 2005, alongside counterpart Bill Daly, now the NHL deputy commissioner.