Lindsay on Kelly's firing: 'They crucified one of the most honest, finest people I've ever met'

September, 3, 2009

The hockey union's forefather said he could barely stomach what he witnessed Sunday night.

"They just crucified one of the most honest, finest people that I've ever met in this world," Ted Lindsay told on Thursday.

Lindsay was among the original pioneers of the NHL Players' Association, fighting owners in the 1950s to help protect players' rights. He said seeing what happened to deposed NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly during players' meetings in Chicago on Sunday night made him sick.

"There was the woman [union consultant Anne Marie Turnbull] who put a presentation on," Lindsay said. "I'm sitting there listening to this and she was stabbing [Kelly] every minute that she was talking and she talked for more than an hour. About his qualifications, his attitude, what they thought of him in the office ... Who knows what the questions were and who knows how they asked them -- this was her interpretation as far as I'm concerned."

The smoking gun finally surfaced in the past 24 hours, as multiple sources confirmed to that Kelly obtained sealed minutes of a meeting in Las Vegas that he wasn't allowed to attend. That alleged breach of trust was the backbone of the case against him Sunday night, when 30 player reps voted to fire him. Kelly's defenders, however, will tell you that he felt compelled to read those minutes because he had received word that constitutional rules had been broken during that meeting.

Lindsay went to bed at around 11 p.m. Sunday night, 4½ hours before Kelly's sacking. He awoke the next morning to the news.

"I was so disgusted and so discouraged, and I still feel that way," Lindsay said. "A good man was crucified by a bunch of innocent, young hockey players but by knowledgeable union people at the head."

Lindsay, among the best players in the world during the Original Six era, said today's NHL stars should take action.

"The big-money players in the league today should be up in arms because Paul Kelly has been in their corner since day one," Lindsay said. "Since he took that job, he's just done one great thing after another, not only for the present-day players but he's done a tremendous job for the alumni.

"Every alumni player who has played in this league recognizes today that they've lost a great friend who was doing things for them."

Lindsay addressed the 30 player reps Sunday night.

"I spoke to all the young men pertaining to Paul Kelly and what he did in helping track down the biggest crook that ever was in hockey, [former NHLPA head] Alan Eagleson. A guy that used to steal from the players."

Now, Lindsay fears the worst for the NHLPA.

"I only hope we haven't gone back to 1967," Lindsay said. "Because this was union activity at its best -- intimidation. I don't blame the kids. They started at 4 p.m. and went until 3:30 a.m. Players were so irritated by then, it was like 'Let's just vote and get out of here.' That's union activity.

"They used the element of fatigue with the vote time," added Lindsay. "Some player with some brains should have said, 'No, fellas, let's get a few hours of sleep and come back.' That's what they should have done."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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