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An earlier NHLPA had been formed in 1957 by hockey players Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings and Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens after the league had refused to release financial information. The owners broke the union by trading players involved with the organization or sending them to the minor leagues.
To prevent the new NHLPA from suffering the fate of its predecessor, Pulford met with the owners of the NHL teams and demanded they recognize the new union or the union would seek official recognition from Canadian Labour Relations Board. Additionally, the players sought guarantees that no member of the new union would be punished for being a member.
Following a lockout which shortened the 1994-95 NHL season by 36 games, the NHLPA in 1995 signed a collective bargaining agreement. This agreement was originally to last for six seasons with re-negotiation possible in 1998, but was eventually extended to last until September 15, 2004.
On March 11 2007, a conference call conducted by the 30 player representatives of the NHL teams and Ted Saskin led to a vote that placed executive director Ted Saskin and NHLPA senior director Ken Kim on a paid leave of absence.
On May 11, 2007 a conference call with the 30 player representatives ended in a unianimous vote terminating Ted Saskin as executive director.
On October 24th, 2007, after a 4 month search, the NHLPA voted Paul Kelly as the new Executive Director of the NHLPA via a secret ballot vote. Kelly is a former federal prosecutor and helped bring down former NHLPA head Alan Eagleson.
The NHLPA's management is headed by the executive director Paul Kelly (lawyer), who heads an executive board of players representing their individual teams. On July 12th, 2006, the NHLPA elected a six-member interim executive committee. Members elected are interim Vice Presidents Kevyn Adams, Alyn McCauley, Wade Redden, Mathieu Schneider and Marty Turco. Interim Vice President Daniel Alfredsson (a previous NHLPA Vice President), was elected August 1st, 2006. Also on July 12th, 2006, Trevor Linden resigned as NHLPA President, the post has been vacant since.
- Alan Eagleson, 1967-91
- vacant (Due to Eagleson's Resignation), 1991-92
- Bob Goodenow, 1992-2005
- Ted Saskin, 2005-07
- Paul Kelly (lawyer), 2007-2010
- Donald Fehr, 2010-Present
- Don Meehan - founder of Newport Sports Management which represents over 100 NHL players, also the agent for Ron MacLean.
- Pat Morris - partner of Newport Sports Management.
- Mike Barnett - Wayne Gretzky's agent, former General Manager of the Phoenix Coyotes.
- Brian Burke - current General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, formerly GM of Hartford Whalers and Vancouver Canucks.
- Mark Gandler - Alexei Yashin's agent, best known for orchestrating Yashin's holdout from the Ottawa Senators during the 1999-2000 NHL season.
- Carl Lindros - father and agent of Eric Lindros.
- Robert W. Goodenow - Executive Director of NHLPA (1992-2005)
- Ted Saskin - Executive Director of NHLPA (2005-2007), NHLPA Senior Director and deputy to Bob Goodenow (1992-2005)
- Alan Eagleson - Bobby Orr's agent, founder of the existing NHLPA, Executive Director of the NHLPA (1967-1991), forced out due to fraud in 1991.
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