TORONTO - Some of the NHL's most powerful agents got their first real glimpse of the new executive director of the NHL Players' Association on Wednesday, and they liked what they saw.
Paul Kelly met with more than 100 player agents for the first time since he started on the job five months ago.
"You get a sense that he's passionate and he's got a vision," said agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports. "He wants to protect the players obviously but he wants to grow the game - which is fantastic."
Kelly, a former prominent lawyer and federal prosecutor in Boston, took over from Ted Saskin, who was fired last May amid allegations he ordered the spying of NHLPA player e-mails
Saskin's reign was short but tumultuous as there was a bitter divide among players and agents, mostly due to Saskin's controversial hiring after longtime executive director Bob Goodenow was pushed aside.
"I think he strikes a proper balance between the past two regimes of the NHLPA," said agent Matt Keator, whose clients include Zdeno Chara and Chris Higgins. "He's very communicative, he's very bright, he's engaging on every single topic. I think he's the right guy at the right time to lead us forward. I think he's going to do a great job."
Brisson, whose long list of clients is topped by Penguins star Sidney Crosby, was impressed by Kelly's composure.
"He comes in here the first day and it feels like he's been there for years," said Brisson. "He's very humble about his position and he's very experienced. He listens, he's done his homework the last couple of months. He's asked the right questions. It's a breath of fresh air, for sure."
Kelly also got the sense he was warmly received.
"They tell me that the applause that occurred at the end was the first time that an executive director has ever received an applause after one of these meetings," said Kelly. "So I take that as a plus."
Kelly also announced to agents on Wednesday that the players' executive board had appointed six new divisional field reps. They're former players who will help increase the flow of information between players and the NHLPA.
"They will be the principal links between the players across North America and the office here in Toronto," said Kelly. "They're all former players, recently retired in the last few years."
The field reps are: Steve Webb for the Atlantic Division; Rob Zamuner, Northeast; Joe Reekie, Southeast; Jim McKenzie, Central; Darby Hendrickson, Northwest; Dave Scatchard, Pacific.