NHL union boss Ted Saskin says his predecessor Bob Goodenow had player e-mails monitored, not him. (CPimages)
Saskin, the embattled executive director of the NHL Players' Association, was responding to a published report this week alleging he ordered the monitoring of players' e-mail accounts hosted by the union. Saskin could have his future decided Sunday night when the union holds a conference call with its executive board.
''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 on Thursday.
''I also plan to tell the board on Sunday night, that, contrary to what was reported by the Toronto Star, I have never accessed a player e-mail account and I have never ordered NHLPA technical staff to access player e-mail accounts.''
Goodenow denied Saskin's claim.
''The allegations made by Ted Saskin against me regarding player e-mails are false,'' Goodenow said in a statement though his lawyer, Jane Milburn. ''To date I have not made any public comment since leaving the NHLPA, and I won't now comment on, or get embroiled in current NHLPA issues.
''That said I will be glad to respond to questions from players on any NHLPA policies or practices while I was the executive director. I am unaware of an instance where the security of a single player's e-mail or other personal information was compromised.''
The declaration from Saskin on Thursday comes during a time when his future has never been more in doubt.
Allegations 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 hosted by the union, and that the findings were presented to the Crown.
The e-mail system the players use is administered by the NHLPA.
The allegations prompted Sunday's conference call involving the NHLPA's executive board, comprised of player representatives from all 30 NHL teams as well as the six-member interim executive committee.
Saskin, whose contract is reportedly worth US$10 million over five years, had restricted his comments until Thursday to a statement Monday saying no illegal activity has gone on at the NHLPA.
The 30 players reps, who include Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, could vote to fire Saskin. That would require 16 of the 30 votes. It's not clear whether executive committee members 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 will get a vote because they are acting in an interim capacity.
Trevor Linden stepped down as president last summer and has yet to be replaced. Linden did not immediately return a call Thursday while Chelios declined an interview request.
Saskin, who first joined the NHLPA in 1992, replaced Goodenow as executive director on July 28, 2005, a move that ignited protests from Chelios and former executive committee member Trent Klatt, now retired as a player. Until then, Saskin was Goodenow's right-hand man as the NHLPA's senior director.
The dissident group alleges proper procedure wasn't followed in Saskin's hiring. The anti-Saskin faction has grown in numbers over the last two seasons, thanks in part to Chelios' dogged efforts.
The veteran defenceman has never wavered, despite failed attempts to use the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. National Labor Relations Board, as well as a failed lawsuit directed at Saskin, Linden and other former executive committee members.
Chelios convinced player reps to approve hiring Toronto lawyer Sheila Block in late January to conduct an internal review of the NHLPA and look into the hiring of Saskin. That move needed approval from the player reps on their last conference call. Block's 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.
Hasan Cavusoglu, an assistant professor at UBC who specializes in information security management, said many organizations or companies have the right to monitor e-mail sent by members or employees - and make that clear up front in their e-mail policies.
"The e-mail that you are sending through the e-mail server of the organization is the organization's asset," Cavusoglu said. "If you are using e-mail, everything belongs to the organization, in general. As a result, the organization has a right to check the content of the message that you are sending."
It was not clear whether the NHLPA has an e-mail policy.
Canadian Press sportswriter Gregory Strong contributed to this report.