, fired early Monday as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, said his goal as the union's head was always to "protect the players" -- and that he didn't want to talk about the proceedings that led to his firing.
Interviewed on "Leafs Lunch" on AM 640 in Toronto, Kelly said he hoped "the NHLPA is in a better place today than when I came aboard 21 months ago. I have enormous respect and admiration for the players and for the staff at the NHLPA -- they are a bright, energetic fabulous group of people.
"My primary goal was to protect the players' interests. I wanted to make sure the players got their fair share, that they weren't being deceived or manipulated or having their rights violated."
As part of that effort, Kelly declined to discuss the events that led to his firing, including the meeting in Chicago that resulted in his termination, and declined to comment on rumors that a divide within the union led to his ouster.
"I'm not going to talk about internal union matters," he told hosts Darren Dreger and Bill Watters. "I subscribe to the theory that what happens in locker room stays in the locker room. I'm motivated by what's best for the players -- what protects the players and protects their interests."
That's not to say he wasn't affected by the firing.
"I'm not going to talk about internal union matters. I subscribe to the theory that what happens in locker room stays in the locker room. I'm motivated by what's best for the players -- what protects the players and protects their interests."
- Paul Kelly
"Walking out (of the meeting): shock, extreme sadness, disappointment -- the range of human emotions that any person would feel," he said when asked about his feelings after being fired. "When you lose a role you love, it hurts. It's something I will come to grips with. I hope I left the game in a better place and brought a level of credibility back to the NHLPA.
"I was sad and disappointed by how things developed. I was privileged to do this job for the time I did it. I leave with enormous affinity for the players of the NHL, and I want to do what's right for the players going forward. I'm a better person for having had the experience, and I hope I left the game and the players in a better place."