Mon Feb 20 06:28pm EST
Paul Kelly resigned his position as Executive Director of College Hockey Inc., on Monday afternoon in a shocking turn of events for NCAA hockey.
"The (Hockey Commissioners Association) would like to thank Paul for his service to CHI and wish him the best in his future endeavors," said Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell in a press release.
Kelly, the former head of the NHL Players' Association, had been at the forefront of a movement to help NCAA hockey battle the Canadian Hockey League in their recruitment of players. He was hired in 2009 to lead College Hockey Inc., which was designed to help promote college hockey and educate prospective players and their parents about playing in the NCAA.
The move, however, might have come as a surprise to everyone outside of the HCA. According to sources of veteran NCAA scribe Todd D. Milewski over at U.S. College Hockey Online, Kelly was allegedly given an ultimatum by the hockey commissioners:
Paul Kelly was given a choice Monday to resign or be fired as executive director of College Hockey Inc., sources said, and he chose the former.
Sources described a falling out between the commissioners and Kelly that had been a while in the making, based on a difference of opinions on College Hockey Inc.'s scope.
But the final straw, the sources said, was Kelly recently approaching athletic directors from some ECAC Hockey schools about meeting to give College Hockey Inc. a more leading role in the administration of Division I men's hockey. (USCHO.Com)
The back-and-forth between the NCAA and the CHL over recruitment had definitely heated up during Kelly's tenure at College Hockey Inc. Over the summer he had made allegations suggesting there were some CHL teams paying players under the table in order to have them leave NCAA commitments.
More recently, Kelly and College Hockey Inc., were discussing the possibility of legislation to make signing a NCAA letter of intent more binding to prevent players from jumping to the CHL.
According to the College Hockey News, however, Kelly's departure is no great cause for concern:
Ultimately, there is nothing that the next Executive Director can't do that Kelly was doing, and for a lot less money. The position does not demand someone of high name-recognition. It demands someone who can get in the trenches, travel around, educate and market college hockey. That is what Kelly was doing, but so can many other people. What College Hockey Inc. needs is a good recruiter, not a good lawyer.
And while name recognition might not be necessary, one thing's for sure, when Kelly discussed issues surrounding junior and college hockey -- people on both sides listened intently.
What makes the timing surprising is the fact that Kelly had recently been out at NCAA events -- tweeting about being at the Messa Rink in Schenectedy, N.Y., for the game between host Union College and Princeton on Friday night.
Prior to his job as the head of the NHLPA, Kelly was a successful Boston-based lawyer who handled many high profile cases. He was instrumental in helping many NHLPA members bring their case against Alan Eagleson -- on charges of fraud and embezzlement -- to court. After leaving the PA, Kelly said he was happy to find another role in hockey, instead of returning to the courtroom.
"I suppose I could have gone back to law, be that with a big firm or just hang my own shingle and start taking cases," Kelly told the Boston Globe. "But I love the game, and after getting a taste of it with the PA job, it wasn't something that I wanted to give up. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity.''
The HCA has yet to name Kelly's replacement, but noted in the statement that they expect to discuss a "different course" for the new executive director.