Ted Saskin responds to a question during a news conference in Toronto. (CPimages \'05/Adrian Wyld)
The NHLPA's executive board, made up of 30 player-reps plus the six-member interim executive committee, voted unanimously via conference call Thursday to fire the suspended executive director.
"I doubt it's over," said Detroit Red Wings veteran Chris Chelios, who spearheaded the players' movement to have Saskin replaced. "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."
The moves comes after Saskin was put on a paid leave of absence in March, along with senior director Ken Kim, following allegations they read players' e-mails.
The NHLPA made the announcement in a brief release, saying no further comment was forthcoming because "this is an internal matter."
Saskin offered a brief response.
"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 told The Canadian Press in an e-mail.
"I will work towards a fair resolution of my contractual rights with the NHLPA and wish them well in the future."
Saskin was in the second year of a five-year deal reportedly worth US$10 million. There will likely be more legal wrangling to determine how Saskin's contract will be settled.
Toronto employment lawyer Chris Paliare was retained as outside counsel to address the employment issues surrounding Saskin and Kim.
An internal review into the hiring of Saskin, conducted by Toronto lawyer Sheila Block, is ongoing and expected to be completed this summer.
NHLPA legal counsel Ian Penney and player-reps Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers and Eric Lindros of the Dallas Stars will take preliminary steps to inquire about possible candidates. They will then report back to the executive board when it convenes again on a conference call in a week and a half, at which point the board hopes to put together a search committee.
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."
The turmoil within the union began in the first place when Saskin succeeded Bob Goodenow 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.
Support for Chelios' group really didn't swell until the e-mail saga erupted in early March. That led to several longtime Saskin supporters having a major change of heart.
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.
The turmoil within the union ranks follows a contentious labour agreement that saw the union yield to a salary cap.
Saskin was seen as the architect of this deal alongside his counterpart Bill Daly, now the NHL's deputy commissioner.
"If you talk about Ted, I think he's a superstar, somebody that I really discovered this year while negotiating," veteran NHLer Vincent Damphousse, a member of the NHLPA's executive committee, said at the time of Saskin's appointment.
"His relations that he had with all the partners, with the PA, he negotiates all the marketing and licensing deals, but he's got great relations with the league as well. He's perfect for the job."
The Montreal native is a family man but intensely private about his personal life. He lives in Toronto with his wife Leora and four kids although few know triplets (two boys and a girl) make up 75 per cent of that quartet. They also have a daughter.
Like Goodenow, Saskin is a lawyer by trade. He graduated from the University of Toronto's vaunted faculty of law in 1983, later joining the law firm of Goodman & Goodman (now Goodmans LLP), specializing in licensing and sports litigation. He was made a partner in 1990.