Devils right wing David Clarkson would not say how he voted early Monday morning when the NHLPA removed Paul Kelly from his position as executive director of the players' union after only a year and a half on the job. Clarkson, the Devils' player representative, said he called all of his teammates to get their opinions before attending the meeting in Chicago.
"As the rep here, I think I did the right thing," he said. "I phoned every player on my team and I got everybody's opinion going in. Was it the right thing or not? Time will tell. But I think as a union and as a team we've got to look for the new person to make sure we make the right decision and just look forward. It's like a hockey team. We can't look back at what happened last year to us as a team here. It's the same as a union. We've got to look forward and just get ready for the future and what it holds."
The move to dump Kelly was surprising and sudden to some.
"This is all new to me, being (the team's player rep)," he said. "It's something I like to do and I think I've learned a lot, but was it sudden? I don't know. They did a vote and the votes were, the majority that's the way it went. That's the way it is. All we can do is look forward and not really talk about it and tell you if it was right or wrong. It happened. All we can do is look for the right person for the job."
Why was the vote necessary?
"That's what we needed to do as a union," Clarkson said. "That's just the way things went."
Clarkson would not discuss the reasoning for the way the Devils' voted.
"I'm not going to answer which way I voted or which way the team decided to vote," he said. "That's what happened. I've had a lot of phone calls I haven't returned. I thought I'd speak to you guys first about it. That's just the way it went. I'm not looking back if it was right or wrong. It doesn't matter what decision we made. Did I like Paul Kelly? Yeah. Was he a nice guy? Yeah, he was. But, at the end of the day, the decision has been made. So, there's no looking back and saying why did it happen. We just have to find our guy and we have to go in the right direction so that we're (making) some progress and we're going in the right direction instead of taking steps backwards."
Devils left wing Brendan Shanahan was one of those who questioned the timing of the vote because it happened late at night after a long day of meetings and less than two weeks before training camp began.
"I still haven't heard much about it," Shanahan said. "In this new era of transparency, I still haven't heard a whole lot. I think our player reps are good people and have the best of intentions. I've never met (NHLPA interim ombudsman Buzz) Hargrove or (NHLPA advisory board head Ron) Pink. I don't know them at all. I don't know Paul Kelly that well. But it just makes me nervous that the timing of this and the fact that these players were kept in a meeting overnight and had to make a decision at 4 o' clock in the morning.
"It followed the constitution, but I think the timing makes me nervous and the timing makes a little suspicious when we're only 10 days away from having access to all 700 players. Why did this have to be done in such a hurried fashion? We made that mistake a few years ago, hurrying it through with (Bob) Goodenow and (Ted) Saskin and I thought we learned from that mistake. In the end, it might be the right decision, but I still don't like the way it was done and I'm still waiting for some answers.
"I'm more concerned about how it was done and I'm still waiting for details of why. A meeting happened in Chicago that no one knew was happening. At 3:30, 4 in the morning, this guy who has been on the job for a year and a half was canned that we spent a lot of money finding this guy. So, I guess it's wait and see. That being said, guys like David Clarkson, they're good people. They're good young men and they want to do what's best, but I don't know why somebody wasn't there with a little more experience to say, 'let's take a step back and wait until we can talk to players in training camp,' or at the very least, 'This is a very big decision guys. Let's go home. Let's call it a night and make a decision in the morning."
Clarkson said Shanahan was one of the first players he called before the vote.
"You're going to have guys have different opinions," Clarkson said. "I'm not going to say what my opinion was on the whole deal. But I liked Paul Kelly. Did it happen quickly? Yeah, it happened quick. But, sometimes things happen and things need to be done and the majority of the league voted that way, so there's not much you can do or say. But Shanny is an older guy and it's nice to hear their opinions. Shanny is one of the first guys I called to go over it with and me and him were on the same page with a lot of things. But, as a rep, you take 30, 20 guys opinions and you have write everything they say down and say, 'what do you think?'"
Shanahan didn't think other represtantives were as diligent as Clarkson.
"I know that David tried to call some players, but I'd say overall most players woke up and read the news and didn't even know that there was an issue," Shanahan said.
Clarkson said his youger brother, Doug, who attended the Devils' rookie camp in July as an undrafted agent, was invited back by the team for the regular training camp to try out to make the team in Lowell or Trenton, but decided to go to college at Acadia University in Nova Scotia instead.
"He wanted to get his degree," David Clarkson said. "This way, he'll have more time. Some guys develop later than others."