Over the course of his storied NHL career, Chris Chelios has not only rocked opponents with his physical play on the ice, but also with his words off it. The Red Wings defenseman was one of the first to come out in vehement opposition to the manner in which former NHL Players' Association executive director Ted Saskin rose to power Â– and subsequent investigations proved Chelios's suspicions to be valid.
However, Chelios's most recent comments regarding the players' union and its buckling to owner demands during the last collective bargaining negotiation indicates there's a new target in his crosshairs Â– prominent player agent Don Meehan Â– and raises the specter of decertifying one of the game's most powerful figures.
"In my opinion, Donny Meehan played a role in undermining our union," Chelios said this week, accusing Meehan of working with Saskin and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to help end the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Â“If [Meehan, Saskin, (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman and Daly] did anything wrong, it remains to be seenÂ…Eventually, it will all come out."
Meehan vehemently denied scuttlebutt of that nature months ago, telling the New York Post such rumors were Â“absolute nonsense.Â”
Â“I had no contact with Gary Bettman, Bill Daly or any other league negotiator during the lockout,Â” Meehan said, before daring his critics to attach their names to the accusations. "Who are these slimeballs who are trying to ruin my reputation?
"...(l)et me tell you something: If anyone wants to file charges against me, let them. If anyone has the [guts] to make this claim against me, I'll sue their [butt] off.Â”
Meehan stuck by those words in a brief conversation with TheHockeyNews.com Wednesday.
Â“I'll let my previous comments speak for me now,Â” Meehan said. Â“If someone wishes to go (on the record) with their thoughts, I'll review what they've said with my attorney and take action from there.Â”
The NHLPA did not respond to multiple calls for comment on Chelios's accusations. But the union has a process in place for agent decertification Â– and has used it more than once, including during the revoking of former agent Bryant McBride's license to represent players in 2004 when it alleged McBride leaked information from the NHLPA's secure website to a reporter.
According to the NHLPA's regulations governing agent certification, it can revoke an agent's license to represent players if it receives a complaint within one year from the incident which caused the complaint, or one year from the date on which the information became known to the union.
Any number of transgressions can be cause for a decertification complaint, including Â“Engaging in any...activity which creates an actual or potential conflict of interest with the effective representation of playersÂ…Â”
Regardless of whether Meehan is a target for decertification, it is clear some player agents believe the union Â– and rumored new executive director Paul Kelly Â– must go beyond a report from investigator Sheila Block and further delve into the circumstances that led to Saskin replacing predecessor Bob Goodenow as NHLPA chief.
Minnesota-based agent Neil Sheehy is one of those people.
Â“The Block Report established that there were a lot of documents that were shredded, and hard drives that were destroyed,Â” Sheehy told TheHockeyNews.com. Â“So the question is, how do we get all the information out? It's important for this union moving forward that we have full transparency, that we understand what happened, and that the people who undermined the union be reckoned with Â– whoever they are.Â”
However, another prominent agent, who requested anonymity, wondered whether Kelly and the union would better spend their time focusing on the future, rather than the past.
Â“When someone says, Â‘undermined the union,' does anyone think in January of 2005 Â– after we made the offer of a 24 per cent rollback Â– we were in a position where (Goodenow) was winning?Â” the agent said. Â“The fact is, we were getting our ass kicked. (Goodenow) had no plan B or C. It was all or nothing, and when the season was canceled, it was nothing. We were dead in the water at that point.
Â“We all want Paul Kelly to succeed, and we certainly need an infusion of vigor in the union,Â” the agent added. Â“We can spend a whole bunch of time going back and reviewing the events of 2004 and 2005, but I hope whomever's in charge first asks, Â‘Where are we going to?' and, Â‘How do we get there?' first.
Â“And really, wouldn't the owners just love to see (union members and agents) attacking each other again?Â”