TORONTO - NHL players have ratified a new constitution that significantly alters the way their union governs itself, completing a lengthy review process borne out of the dispute over the hiring of former executive director Ted Saskin.
The new constitution, approved through a secret ballot and announced Tuesday, eliminates the National Hockey League Players' Association's executive committee, which was comprised of a president and six vice-presidents.
In its place, the 30 club-player representatives will serve as equal voting members of an executive board.
Additionally, the positions of executive director and general counsel, which have traditionally been held by the same person, will now be divided between two individuals. Both positions will serve as non-voting members of the executive board.
"The players have put together an exceptional constitution, with the process that brought about the changes being just as significant as what their efforts produced," Paul Kelly, the NHLPA's new executive director, said in a statement. "From the very beginning of the review, players consulted with each other, conducted surveys and group discussion, and then affirmed the new constitution by secret ballot.
"It's highly appropriate that the players' constitution was constructed by the players themselves."
The new governing document comes about a week after Kelly's hiring, ending a process of renewal for the union.
A review of the old constitution began in March 2006 as union infighting raged over the process that led to the hiring of Saskin, who was fired last May 11 amid allegations he ordered the spying of NHLPA player e-mails.
A draft of the new document was presented to the players at their annual meetings Aug. 29-31 in Toronto. The input offered from players there plus comments from others who participated in an online survey led the to the final document.
"The events in recent years made it clear that it was time to revise a stale constitution that no longer represented the needs of our membership," said Eric Lindros, a member of the constitution committee. "This new document ensures that the players have control over their union and have the full ability to govern themselves.
"The errors of the past will not be repeated."
Lindros, Craig Adams (Carolina Hurricanes), Andrew Peters (Buffalo Sabres) and Matt Stajan (Toronto Maple Leafs) were appointed to the review process in June 2007 and have since headed the process with lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo and NHLPA staff.
Other changes under the new constitution include:
-The executive board will appoint an ombudsman, who will also recommend a former player to serve in the capacity of divisional player representative to liaise with players in their respective divisions.
-An advisory board will be created to offer guidance on various matters. Members will have expertise in law, corporate affairs, finance, marketing, labour relations and player representation.
"The new constitution builds a relationship that allows the players to be more involved within our union and allows our union to be closer to the players," said Adams. "With divisional player representatives and an ombudsman, our needs will be looked after more efficiently and with greater player input."