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Greg Wyshynski

NHLPA loses Penny, refutes report it's suspended operations

Greg Wyshynski
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Around 1 p.m. EST this afternoon, the following email blast was sent out from FAN 590 in Toronto:

According to Hockeycentral at Noon's Nick Kypreos, The NHLPA has shut down its operations, including the suspension of responsibilities for interim Executive Director, Ian Penny.

Uh, wow. For clarification's sake, what Kypreos actually said on the air:

"I think the last committee that they put together ... they've essentially suspended all operations, including the interim executive director. Ian Penny's been shut down. They shut down the NHLPA."

(Q. So, if you went to the NHLPA today, the door's closed?)

"I don't think it would be closed, but they're not in a position to function on a daily basis. The ombudsman [Buzz Hargrove] has been suspended. The regional guys that represent their divisions have all been shut down as well. I hope this thing comes to a head. You'll probably hear from Ian Penny in some way and form, possibly resigning. ... Effectively, the last few days, it's been clear that he's been constructively dismissed."

Curious phrase, that last one. It was repeated in the NHLPA press release today that refuted Kypreos's claim that the players' association had suspended operations, but confirmed that interim boss Ian Penny is done with the NHLPA.

From the NHLPA:

"Interim Executive Director Ian Penny informed the NHLPA staff and the NHLPA Executive Board earlier today that it is his position he has been constructively dismissed as Interim Executive Director of the NHLPA and can no longer work in the present circumstances. Effective today, Ian Penny is no longer employed by the NHLPA.

"There have been inaccurate media reports circulating today that the NHLPA has suspended operations. The NHLPA staff continues to work very hard on behalf of the players in all areas of the Association's business and will continue to do so going forward.

"The NHLPA will make no further comment today on this internal matter."

TSN adds some additional background, reporting that "Steve Larmer, Dan O'Neill and Ron Lloyd of the NHLPA's Advisory Board resigned Thursday night and legal counsel Paul Cavalluzzo resigned on Friday morning." From TSN:

Last week, the NHLPA executive board voted 25-5 in favour of forming a committee to review union operations. NHL veterans Rob Blake(notes), Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and Mark Recchi(notes) along with former Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios(notes) were named to the committee. Earlier this week, the committee sent out an e-mail to its members outlining their strategic plan.

''We have come through a period of considerable turmoil and dysfunction within the NHLPA,'' stated the e-mail obtained by TSN. ''It is our goal that everything we do now be focused on strengthening and unifying the Association as we move forward to ensure we are in a strong position to enter collective bargaining and conduct our day to day business with the NHL. This review will be conducted independently of those who have worked at the NHLPA during this embarrassing time for the Association.''

In addition to investigating why former executive director Paul Kelly was let go in August, the new four-man group is expected to look into how Penny was able to negotiate a five-year, $3.5 million contract in June.

TSN reports that Penny sent out an email last week saying he had been -- wait for it -- "constructively dismissed" by the NHLPA; it also wrote that, essentially, the association is in a holding pattern while the committee does its internal affairs work.

Well this is a mess. But it needed to be. If this player committee was serious about changing the course of the association, a Great Purge was a good starting point. The real question is whether the players can remove heads from posteriors fast enough to organize before the next CBA negotiation -- a negotiation that a few agents told us during the summer would be a bloody massacre by the well-prepared NHL against the chaotic NHLPA.

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