Tough times (cont.)
Posted: Thursday December 6, 2007 1:39PM; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2007 2:25PM
Paul Kelly, who barely has found a chair that fits him as the NHLPA's new executive director said recently that he's "concerned" about the number of suspensions the Flyers have been given since the start of the season and that not only should the league take a tougher stance, but that his organization should "have a voice in the process."
Given that he's not dead, it would be wrong to say that former NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow is spinning in his grave over that one, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that Kelly's statement made his head turn. Criticism of Goodenow within and outside the PA often centered on how he handled on-ice or player-on-player violence. The perception (Goodenow argued it was unfair) was that the PA was quick to come to the defense of any perpetrator, but did next to nothing to protect the health, safety and long-term welfare of the player who was unduly or unfairly assaulted.
That wasn't always the case. Goodenow believed that since the league was handing out the suspensions, it was incumbent upon the PA to monitor the hearings in order to ensure that the dictates of the collective bargaining agreement were followed. Essentially, the PA was there to protect the process.
Technically, it was a reasonable argument, but the offshoot was that it often appeared that the PA did little, sometimes nothing, to protect the well-being of the victimized player. The poster child was Colorado's Steve Moore, who was severely injured as the result of an assault by then Vancouver forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2004. The PA fought hard to defend Bertuzzi's rights under the CBA. It was accused of doing considerably less for the health and financial well- being of Moore, who not only suffered a fractured neck, but has never returned to NHL ice and likely never will.
Kelly, recently elected to replace the ousted Ted Saskin, who replaced Goodenow under the most mysterious of circumstances, rocked both worlds with his approach.
"It does concern me that a number of these instances have involved the same franchise [Philadelphia]," he said. " Whether that's coincidence, whether that's culture, whether that's coaching, I don't know. But that's a concern and it's something that I think both the league and the association need to pay attention to as to why that's happening."
Kelly went on to say that he was "critical" of the Randy Jones hit (Jones delivered a serve blow to the head of Boston's Patrice Bergeron that resulted in a long-term concussion) and that "people who think the players' association is always going to advocate less discipline, I think that they're kind of mistaken because we represent both the victim and the aggressor. I think, frankly, we ought to have a voice in this process. It ought to happen before the discipline is imposed, and I'm not so sure in every instance we're going to be the ones advocating less of a suspension."
Two things need to be noted here. One: Kelly, a former prosecuting and defense attorney who knows both the meaning and value of words, chose "victim" and put it ahead of "aggressor". Two: It might well be presumed the PA could argue for supplemental discipline to be used as a more effective deterrent than the usual wrist-slap. Kelly's being "critical" of the Jones hit can easily be taken to mean he's not happy with the fact that Jones was suspended a mere two games while Bergeron may out for the remainder of the season, not to mention the impact on how well he plays should he be able to return.
That's a sea change in approach. It makes Kelly a new boss who appears to be a great deal different than the old bosses.