The National Hockey League Players' Association
The NHLPA is a labour union whose members are the players in the NHL and whose mandate is to represent their interests. Headquartered in Toronto, the NHLPA has a staff of approximately 35 employees who work in such varied disciplines as labour law, marketing, product licensing, community relations and communications.
While the management of daily operations is the responsibility of the NHLPA Executive Director, the ultimate control over all NHLPA activities resides with the players, who each year elect representatives in order to form an Executive Board.
Origins of the NHLPA – (1967 – 1991)
The National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) dates back to June of 1967, when player representatives from the original six NHL clubs met to adopt a constitution and elect a president. The representatives were Boston's Ed Johnston, Chicago's Pierre Pilote, Detroit's Norm Ullman, Montreal's Bobby Rousseau and J.C. Tremblay, New York's Rod Gilbert, Harry Howell and Bob Nevin, and Toronto's Bob Pulford.
At a meeting with team owners, newly elected NHLPA president Bob Pulford let it be known that if the owners refused to accept the new Association, the players would seek recognition through the Canadian Labour Relations Board. The players also sought a guarantee that no player would suffer unfair treatment for being a member of the NHLPA. The owners acceded. In return, the NHLPA agreed that it should represent at least two-thirds of the active players in the NHL and that the players would refrain from striking for the duration of the agreement, so long as the owners did not contravene any terms or conditions.
Coincident with the creation of the NHLPA was the players’ appointment of Alan Eagleson as its first Executive Director. Eagleson stayed on until the end of 1991, when the players replaced him with Robert (Bob) W. Goodenow. Eagleson went on to face criminal charges relating to his conduct during the time he worked at the NHLPA, and ultimately, on January 6, 1998, pleaded guilty in a Boston court to three counts of fraud, agreeing also to pay a fine of (CDN) $1,000,000. The following day in Toronto, Eagleson pleaded guilty to another three counts of fraud and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
An Era of Growth – (1992 – 2007)
Bob Goodenow would restore respect and honour to the Association during his immensely successful 13 years of dedicated service to the players as Executive Director. He led all NHLPA members through the strike of 1992, which most notably gave players the rights to the marketing of their own images. In 1994-95, he was at the helm as the players endured 104 days of an owners’ lockout, ensuring that a fair deal was reached. A decade later, the owners locked out the players yet again, becoming the first professional sports league to cancel an entire season. Goodenow would depart following the last owners’ lockout, notifying the players of his resignation in July of 2005.
As Goodenow stepped down, the members of the Association turned to long-time NHLPA Senior Director Ted Saskin as his successor, drawing on his experience within the Association. The NHLPA Executive Board terminated the employment of Saskin as Executive Director and General Counsel on May 10, 2007, following alleged acts of misconduct.
Under its current administration, the NHLPA has put in place strict guidelines that require the highest degree of competence and integrity among employees and player agents.
A New Beginning – (2007 – Present)
On June 28, 2007, the NHLPA's Executive Board selected Michael Cammalleri (Los Angeles Kings), Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings), Shawn Horcoff (Edmonton Oilers), Eric Lindros (Unrestricted Free Agent) and Robyn Regehr (Calgary Flames) to form a search committee for a new Executive Director. With the assistance of Reilly Partners, an executive search firm from Chicago, the search committee would review the resumes of hundreds of candidates.
The committee would ultimately recommend that Paul V. Kelly, a founding partner of Kelly, Libby and Hoopes law firm in Boston, become the 4th Executive Director since the NHLPA’s inception in 1967. Through a secret ballot system, the Player Representatives voted in favour of the committee’s recommendation, and Kelly would be introduced at a media conference on October 24, 2007.