Ted Saskin responds to a question during a news conference in Toronto, in this July 28, 2005 file photo. Saskin\'s reign at the helm of the NHL Players\' Association could soon come to an end, crashing and burning after beginning with such promise a year and a half ago. (CP PICTRE ARCHIVE/Adrian Wyld)
The 30 players reps on the Sunday night conference call also voted to put NHLPA senior director Ken Kim on a paid leave of absence. Saskin and Kim have been accused of monitoring NHLPA player e-mails, the explosive allegations that led to Sunday's executive board conference call.
"Ted is done," one player, who requested anonymity, said after the call.
Saskin was not on the conference call. A source told The Canadian Press that his e-mail account and blackberry were disconnected over the weekend.
"Following Sunday evening's conference call, the National Hockey League Players' Association announced that the NHLPA executive board has placed Ted Saskin, NHLPA executive director and Ken Kim, NHLPA senior director on a paid leave of absence effective immediately," the union said in a release late Sunday night.
"The NHLPA executive board will be retaining outside counsel in order to properly address the allegations made against Mr. Saskin and Mr. Kim. The NHLPA executive board will afford Mr. Saskin and Mr. Kim the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them at the appropriate time.
"As this is an internal matter, there will be no further comment at this time."
The six-member interim executive committee, which did not vote Sunday night, will be responsible for recommending that independent lawyer.
Sunday's conference call began with NHLPA associate counsels Stu Grimson and Ian Penny and director of hockey affairs Mike Gartner updating the player reps and interim executive committee on the allegations that Saskin ordered the monitoring of NHLPA player e-mails. The e-mail system the players use is administered by the union.
Grimson, Penny and Gartner stayed on for the entirety of the call as players voted on whether to put Saskin and Kim on paid leaves as well as vote on getting outside counsel.
"It was actually pretty calm," said another player on the call who requested anonymity.
The players reps on the call included Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, who has led the effort in trying to unseat Saskin.
Saskin's troubles, many believe, began his very first day on the job as executive director on July 28, 2005. Instead of taking over on an interim basis and forming a search committee to interview other potential candidates, Saskin immediately replaced Bob Goodenow as executive director after negotiating a five-year contract with former players' president Trevor Linden.
That's when then-executive committee member Trent Klatt felt uneasy with the quick transition and began to voice his dissent. Steve Larmer, the director of player relations at the NHLPA, agreed with Klatt and resigned in protest in November 2005. Chelios joined forces with Klatt and, while they had very little support in the early going, their persistence over the last 18 months led to an internal review currently being conducted by Toronto lawyer Sheila Block.
Chelios convinced player reps to approve hiring Block in late January to conduct an internal review of the NHLPA and look into the hiring of Saskin. Blocks review is slated to be completed by early summer.
The turmoil within the union ranks follows a contentious labour agreement that saw the union yield to a salary cap.
The interim executive committee members on the conference call Sunday night were Mathieu Schneider of the Red Wings, Kevyn Adams of the Phoenix Coyotes, Alyn McCauley of the Los Angeles Kings, Wade Redden and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars.
Saskin joined the NHLPA in 1992 and was credited with helping the union increase its revenue in the licensing department. He was senior director, Goodenow's right-hand man, before replacing him.