MONTREAL - JANUARY 23:  NHLPA General Counsel Ian Penny speaks during the NHLPA press conference during the 2009 NHL All-Star weekend at the Queen Elizbeth Fairmont Hotel on January 23, 2009 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

One of the interesting side effects of the Donald Fehr hiring yesterday is that the NHLPA’s constitution is now available for public viewing (g/t Daniel Tolensky).  Naturally, I read through the refreshingly brief document, and while a few items stuck out, none interested me as much as the influence the leadership turmoil of the last few years has had on the document.

For instance, it was hard not to reflect on Ian Penny when reading the second paragraph of Article VII – focused on the General Counsel.  Readers will remember that Penny’ served as the general counsel under former Executive Director Paul Kelly, whose ouster he successfully engineered.  Given that paragraph, it seems highly unlikely that the NHLPA General Counsel will ever again be able to pull off such a feat:

The General Counsel’s employment may be terminated by the Executive Director. In the event that the Executive Director terminates the General Counsel’s employment, the Executive Director shall promptly report on such termination to the Executive Board.

It’s easy to wonder if Kelly would still be head of the NHLPA had he been able to summarily dismiss Penny at the first sign of trouble.

But it’s not just the ghost of Ian Penny influencing the document; we also see an appearance from former Executive Director Ted Saskin in the NHLPA Professional Code of Conduct:

A member shall at all times act in a manner that is consistent with the objects and purposes of the NHLPA, and shall not conduct himself in a manner that is detrimental to the Association. In particular, a member shall… [r]efrain from participating or engaging in any kind of surveillance and/or interception of e-mails or any other means of communication without the consent of all of the parties to the e-mail or other means of communication.

A major factor in Saksin’s dismissal was the allegation that he was monitoring email communication; outlawing such behaviour outright seems like a sensible move on the part of the Players’ Association.

Other items of note:

  • The Negotiating Committee, in charge of collective bargaining with the league, is comprised of two standing members: the Executive Director and the General Counsel (a man voted on by the player representatives, but selected by the Executive Director).  Other members may be added by vote of the player representatives, but Donald Fehr is going to have a great deal of authority when it comes time to hammer out the next CBA.  This isn’t surprising, but it is worth noting.
  • Player representatives must have 160 games of NHL experience, while alternates must have at least 80 games.  While somewhat limiting, it is interesting to see the bar set relatively low in terms of NHL experience.  Players are elected to these roles every two years.
  • The Executive Board consists solely of the 30 NHL player representatives and the Executive Director.  The Executive Director is not a voting member of the board, however; meaning that only actual players get to vote.

All things considered, I think it’s a rather good constitution.  The Executive Director has a good deal of autonomy when it comes to handling NHLPA staff, and while he both shapes and presents policy it is the players who decide it.  There are some checks and balances in the system – the most important one likely being the player appointed Audit Committee – but not so many as to make the Executive Director’s power negligible.