The National Hockey League Players Association has filed motions in both Quebec and Alberta where provincial law view the players union differently. In Quebec, the provincial law does not recognize the NHLPA as a certified union by the Quebec Labour Board. The NHLPA chose not to employ this tactic in 2005. In Alberta, land of the Flames and the Oilers – provincial law calls for a mediator to decide whether or not an employer can lock out its employees.
Positive rulings in either of these cases could be the key to the NHLPA winning this round of CBA negotiations – after taking salary rollbacks and a salary cap in the last round of negotiations.
The NHL disagrees with the players on this – and calls it nothing more than a tactic to interfere with broader negotiations – and that it will have no impact on negotiations or what deal they sign, according to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
The players filing suit are hoping this tactic will show how serious the players are in pushing the league into allowing them to play. Under the terms of a lockout, if the NHL says no go to the season, they will not be paying no players salaries (less the players already on LTIR – whose salaries are covered by insurance) nor are NHL players allowed to use any team facilities.
If any of the injunctions are passed – players would collect their salaries during a work stoppage, and would also be able to work out using facilities they are used to.
There was a planned hearing on the matter scheduled for Tuesday – but that meeting was postponed. The Alberta ruling will be filed because the NHLPA is stating that the NHL did not follow provincial rules on alerting members of the Union through a mediator of the lockout. The Montreal Canadiens ruling is a seperate issue. The Quebec Labour Board does not allow for the use of replacement employees – a tactical card the NHL could use, but is rife with red tape and numerous problems. Replacement players cannot be from another country (i.e. the Buffalo Sabres could only use players born in the United States), and replacement players may not be able to cross international borders when playing, eliminating the chances of any of the Canadian teams from playing US based teams (well that’s one way of getting an all Canadian team division).
What does this mean for the NHL – a positive ruling could land the players in the driver seat, or at least further cause a rift between teams in the US and Canada.
Economically, the team owners are looking for a deal that will save them money on contracts, earn more when it comes to revenue, and getting the players on board. If they have to pay out the salaries for players not playing hockey because a deal cannot be met – it defeats the purpose of the lockout.
While the line in the sand seems to be drawn with the players on one side, and the owners on the other, a legal move by either Quebec or Alberta could create a triangular problem with owners against owners against players.
The league can really ill afford another lengthy lockout, despite that being the thing to do in professional sports these days.
“We’ve already damaged our business and I imagine if we go past (Sept.) 15th and we engage in a work stoppage that it will obviously do further damage to our business,” said Daly. “All of this is adding up, it’s a cumulative effect, it’s a fact of life. …