NHL players' association chief Paul Kelly was fired this morning after union leaders held several meetings in Chicago. It was a surprising move because Kelly was widely respected for his intelligence and even temperament. Plus, he had started building a good working relationship with Commissioner Gary Bettman.
In fact, his cordial approach toward Bettman could have been his downfall. By the looks of things, players thought Kelly was too friendly with the commissioner and wasn't doing enough for them. It doesn't make sense for a union that has had enough turmoil in recent years under Bob Goodenow going into the lockout and Ted Saskin afterward.
The union's leadership failed to see that Kelly was actually keeping communication lines open with Bettman so the two sides could have reasonable negotiations rather take the bombastic approach that failed miserably in the past. Then again, we're not talking about the brightest union on the planet. (Here is a TSN.ca clip of several union members discussing the firing.)
From here, it looks the beginning of the union taking a hard-line approach when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011. The last thing the NHL needs is another work stoppage. It could be headed that way of the players dig in the way the owners did in 2004-05.
--- Bucky Gleason