As the tragedy that is the 2012 NHL Lockout approaches 100 days next week, the league and the players are no closer to a deal that might be able to save the 2012-13 season. Despite efforts led by the Players Association last week to meet again with Federal Mediators involved, talks went nowhere and the NHL followed that up by cancelling another round of games, this time through December 30th. No talks are planned. So where exactly do we stand? Why are the sides so close to a deal but can't seem to get one finished? What's next?
Before I start, I want to say I'm in no way, shape, or form a lawyer. I hate lawyers. I had to do some serious digging to find all this info. So take that with a grain of salt. That being said...
At the end of last week, the NHL filed a lawsuit in New York. The NHL's lawsuit names the NHLPA as a whole, but specifically calls out players, including Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. The league also filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NHLPA, saying they haven't been bargaining in good faith. The players should get a good laugh out of that one.
The NHL is basically covering themselves because reports have been floating around about the Players possibly decertifying the NHLPA, or filing a Disclaimer of Interest. The second option is much more likely to happen in the coming weeks or days. Filing a Disclaimer of Interest means that the NHLPA no longer represents the players at the bargaining table. Why is this important? Well because with the union now dissolved, the players are able to sue the NHL individually for anti-trust violations. This is where the players will go to a court and ask the judge to deem the NHL lockout as an illegal work stoppage, and demand the lockout be lifted.
The fact that the NHL filed these lawsuits and charges against the Players Association at the time and location they did is very important. The NHL now gets to hear their claim heard in the State of New York, which in the past has been very employer friendly and will likely keep the lockout in place. If the Players had beaten the NHL to the court, and filed in California, then the lockout would probably not last too much longer. California courts are very pro-union, or employer friendly. Where this gets messy is if the NHLPA ceases to exist. The Players could take their own individual cases to California and the argument would then begin as to what court will actually get to hear the case. Messy, messy, messy.
We've seen these kind of proceedings before in the NFL and NBA lockouts the past 2 years. The NBAPA filed a Disclaimer of Interest suit, and filed an anti-trust lawsuit. Twelve days later, they had a deal. However, when the NFLPA disclaimed interest, a deal wasn't done for about 4 more months. The key difference in those circumstances were that the NBA was losing games, while the NFL did this in the middle of the off-season. (Smart, eh?)
At this point, the NHL's case covers two big points: 1) They want the court to deem the lockout legal in all facets of law. 2) They want the NHLPA's contracts to be voided if the Union disbands.
All in all, we have no idea who will win in court if it ever gets to that point. Beginning today, the players were to vote on whether to give the NHLPA executive committee the right to file a Disclaimer of Interest on their behalf. Many players, including Red Wings F Danny Clearly, think this will pass with an overwhelming majority. The voting ends Friday. He told the Detroit Free Press that he's very nervous about the season. Some analysts think that maybe this added pressure will get the players on the ice sooner. I'm not one of them.
With games cancelled through most of December already, the next (and probably last) round of cancelled games can't be too far away. And with the Christmas and New Years holidays coming up, I can't see them getting together anytime soon. Considering how close they are on a deal, it would be reckless, stupid, idiotic (insert appropriate adjective here) to cancel the season. But that appears to be the path we're heading on. If nothing happens in the coming days, look for the NHL to cancel games up to January 15th sometime between Christmas and New Years. If nothing happens in the days following that, look for the NHL to cancel the entire 2012-13 season in mid-January. Even though they cancelled 2004-05 in mid-February, they won't wait that long this time.
It's all very, very sad.
To end on a happier note, make sure to head down to the Great Lakes Invitational on December 29-30th for some great college hockey featuring Michigan State, Michigan, Michigan Tech, and invitee (and #8 in the country) Western Michigan. It will be good to see some hockey being played at Joe Louis Arena.
Happy Holidays, folks.