League files suit to es­tab­lish the lock­out’s le­gal­ity

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By ira Podell Last ne­go­ti­a­tions: next ne­go­ti­a­tions: Games Lost:

NEW YORK — An­tic­i­pat­ing a pos­si­ble an­titrust suit, the NHL has brought its la­bor fight against hockey play­ers to fed­eral court.

The league filed a class ac­tion suit Fri­day in U.S. District Court in New York, seek­ing to es­tab­lish that its now 90-day lock­out is le­gal. In a sep­a­rate move, the NHL filed an un­fair la­bor prac­tice charge with the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board, claim­ing the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion has bar­gained in bad faith.

The NHL said it be­lieves the union’s ex­ec­u­tive board is seek­ing au­tho­riza­tion to give up its col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights, a nec­es­sary step be­fore play­ers could file an an­titrust law­suit.

NHL deputy com­mis­sioner Bill Daly de­clined to com­ment on the league’s ac­tions Fri­day. The moves were made af­ter the sides held a bar­gain­ing tele­con­fer­ence, fol­low­ing two days of talks that in­cluded fed­eral me­di­a­tors.

Play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion spe­cial coun­sel Steve Fehr, mean­while, de­clined to com­ment on the law­suits or to con­firm the union’s plans re­gard­ing a so-called dis­claimer of in­ter­est. But the union is­sued a state­ment Fri­day night to ad­dress the NHL’s ac­tions.

“The NHLPA has just re­ceived a copy of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board charge and has not yet been served with the law­suit,” the state­ment said. “How­ever, based on what we’ve learned so far, the NHL ap­pears to be ar­gu­ing that play­ers should be stopped from even con­sid­er­ing their right to de­cide whether or not to be rep­re­sented by a union. We be­lieve that their po­si­tion is com­pletely with­out merit.”

Fehr, who took part in the con­fer­ence call ear­lier Fri­day, said the league In-per­son talks on Dec. 13 in New Jersey. Bar­gain­ing tele­con­fer­ence call on Dec. 14. None sched­uled.

527 (all games through Dec. 30, plus New Year’s Day Win­ter Clas­sic and Al­lS­tar week­end). didn’t make its le­gal plans known dur­ing its dis­cus­sions.

If play­ers choose to pur­sue a dis­claimer of in­ter­est, the union would es­sen­tially stop be­ing a col­lec­tive group to ne­go­ti­ate a la­bor deal with the NHL. The Cana­dian Press, cit­ing uniden­ti­fied sources, said that the union’s ex­ec­u­tive board re­quested a vote from its mem­ber­ship on Thurs­day night that would give it the author­ity to file a dis­claimer.

Such a move wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily doom the en­tire hockey sea­son that has al­ready been longde­layed and short­ened.

Dur­ing the NBA lock­out last year, the bas­ket­ball union made a sim­i­lar move. But ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued any­way and a ten­ta­tive agree­ment was reached within a cou­ple of weeks.

The union then re­formed in time for play­ers to rat­ify the new deal and be­gin a short­ened sea­son. NFL play­ers took the same route last year, as well.

By fil­ing the com­plaint in New York, the NHL guar­an­teed that the le­gal­ity of the lock­out would be de­cided in a court known to be sym­pa­thetic to­ward man­age­ment. The league is con­cerned that if the union dis­solves and seeks to have the lock­out deemed il­le­gal, play­ers could be due triple their lost salaries if they are suc­cess­ful.

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