By Alfred Branch, Jr.
What’s in an email? Ted Saskin just learned the hard way.
Player representatives of the National Hockey League Players’ Association Thursday voted to oust Saskin, its executive director, for allegedly accessing the private email accounts of its players.
Saskin, who was on paid leave since March pending an investigation into the matter, had been executive director for the past two years, following the disastrous the lockout that shut down the entire 2004-05 season. Saskin took over for Bob Goodenow, the architect of the players’ decision to take a hard line stance over the league’s proposal of a salary cap. The players eventually accepted the cap, and Goodenow resigned in disgrace.
Now, the NHLPA is looking for a new executive director for the second time in as many years. The league has not regained its footing since the lockout, with attendance still soft during much of the regular season. Television ratings for most non-playoff games, and even for some post-season games, are weak when compared to those of the other three major sports and NASCAR. In fact, ratings for this season’s All-Star Game were off by more than 70 percent compared to prior years, and hockey tickets rarely crack the top 10 on Ticketnews.com’s exclusive ranking of leading sporting events, except during the playoffs and only then among major-market teams.
When word that Saskin may have ordered the monitoring of the players’ emails, he and Senior Director Ken Kim were placed on leave. The email system used by the players was set up by the NHLPA, but private emails were not supposed to be accessed.
Saskin’s tenure as executive director was troubled from the start when several player representatives opposed his hiring, and in October of last year some of them sued Saskin and other NHLPA executives for fraud and breach of contract.