Ian Penny resignes as
Interim Exec. Dir. of
Ian Penny, the former general counsel for the NHLPA, and the man installed as interim Executive Director of the union for the NHL players after Paul Kelly’s firing, has resigned from the NHLPA, leaving a host of questions surrounding the leadership structure of the union.
Penny informed the NHLPA that he has been constructively dismissed and "can no longer work under the present circumstances." The NHLPA confirmed Penny’s resignation in a statement reading, “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.” The statement added that effective Friday, Penny is no longer employed by the NHLPA.
According to a report by Liz Mullen and Tripp Mickle in Friday’s SportsBusiness Daily sources indicated that:
Multiple members of the NHLPA's advisory board, as well as its longtime outside counsel, leading Canadian labor attorney Paul Cavalluzzo, also resigned. Cavalluzzo declined to confirm or deny reports of his resignation and cited "solicitor-client privilege." There were also rumors that NHLPA interim Ombudsman and former Canadian Auto Workers chief Buzz Hargrove had resigned or was suspended, but he said, "My status is as it was since first of March. As far as I know I am still interim Ombudsman."
Since the SBD publication, reports note that the advisory members include former NHL player Steve Larmer, as well as Dan O'Neill and Ron Lloyd, both connected to the NHLPA on the business side.
The players union then made a point to say that some reports in the media saying that the NHLPA had ostensibly collapsed and that the office had suspended operations, were erroneous.
“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.”
An October 23rd letter from Penny to the NHLPA paints a picture as to why he resigned. Within it, Penny claims that, among other things, spying was being conducted by four veteran NHLPA members, and led by Chris Chelios. The following details, what Penny saw as an unsuitable working environment, including text messages to Penny:
Poisonous Office Environment In recent weeks, there have been a series of hostile and intimidating acts taken against members of the NHLPA staff. These acts are contrary to the legal obligation of the NHLPA to create a safe work environment that is free of harassment. Unfortunately, this obligation is not being fulfilled because of these acts, which include the following:
- Chris Chelios is using staff members inside the office to monitor the meetings and discussions of their fellow employees and report back to him on their activities
- Chelios has confronted multiple employees and interrogated them about why they were meeting with other staffers and what was said in their discussions
- The most recent example of this surveillance campaign occurred on Tuesday, when Chelios sent me the following text message while I was meeting with four other managers in a board room:
"Ian when you r done can you please call me and let me know what you 5 staff members are discussing with each other i would like to know being your guys Emplyer."
It is obvious based on this text message and other recent incidents that Chelios has staff members spying on their colleagues so that he can intimidate and harass the targeted staffers. This completely inappropriate conduct has created a hostile, fractured and distrustful work environment. It is the type of environment that exists in repressive, totalitarian regimes - not work places. It must stop immediately.
Chelios' suggestion that he is the employer and that he is entitled to engage in this form of harassment is simply wrong. No employer is entitled to intimidate employees in this manner. In addition, this view reflects a misunderstanding of the relationship between the Executive Board and the staff. There are over 700 NHLPA members who dictate the union's course through 30 Player Reps acting as a group. No single Player and no single Player Rep directs the day to day management of the NHLPA or its staff. Not only would that be a recipe for chaos, it would allow a single Player to engage in activities that may create legal liability for the entire membership.
Because I am a target of Chelios' surveillance activities, I strongly recommend that the Board seek guidance from other counsel regarding the legal exposure that these activities may have created for the NHLPA.
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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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