I’m not a lawyer, but I know of a couple of hockey bloggers who are lawyers. One of them is mc79hockey, who wrote a post up early this morning about aspects of the NHL’s suit against the NHLPA. His takeaway point is that, if this suit goes further, eventually the Canadian courts ought to get involved, which is a win for the 100 or so players working for Canadian teams, because “the various American acts referenced in the NHL’s claim don’t apply in Canada.”
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll presume the province of British Columbia has more labour-friendly laws than the state of New York. The NHL chose New York, as mc79 says, “parties who have some choice of jurisdiction…would prefer to have their case heard in a jurisdiction that is more friendly to their position.”
You may have noticed that some players named by the NHL, including Cristobal Nieves and Shane Prince, are not NHL players. Prince was a second round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2011 who played in the OHL, signed an entry-level contract under the previous collective agreement and now plays for the Senators’ AHL-affiliate, based in Binghamton. the NHL suit says that Prince “resides in Spencerport, New York” and Cristoval Nieves, an unsigned college player drafted by the New York Rangers, “resides in Baldwinsville, New York”.
The players who aren’t on the NHLPA Negotiating Committee named in the NHL’s lawsuit are all specified as residing in New York, including Mark Eaton and Ryan McDonagh, I’ve seen it commented that the NHL is covering all the bases in going against different types of players. Unsigned draft picks, signed draft picks, unsigned free agents, or what have you.
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but this has been a pretty interesting case to follow, and noting certain legal tactics and it’s fun seeing guys who are lawyers interested in sports commentate. This blog gives lots of love to guys @mc79hockey and @67sound, and they’re well worth following on Twitter throughout this. They’re also charter members of #TeamDecertify, since if the NHLPA does take decertification all the way to the end, it would result in a better product for fans, with more in-market competition, less hand-wringing that the NHL’s stars are located in anonymous markets like Tampa Bay and Dallas, and ensure that only well-run teams are in the top league in North America, similar to the European football system, which I’ve come to love over the last month.
I found this also interesting, from mc79′s post, about what the NHL is seeking from the courts:
g) In the event that the aforementioned declarations aren’t granted, the NHL requests a declaration that if the NHLPA’s decertification or disclaimer is not deemed invalid by the National Labour Relations Board and the collective bargaining relationship does not otherwise continue, all existing contracts between NHL teams and their players are void and unenforceable.
The reason is that the current contracts that are signed overwhelmingly benefit the poorer markets in the NHL. There is no reason for Steven Stamkos to be in Tampa Bay, except that the NHL’s primitive system of talent distribution put him there. In fact, the last collective bargaining agreement was better financially for lower-market clubs, since not only could their stars be under team control for longer, but since they were restricted free agents until their 30s, could re-sign for less.
I think it would be hilarious if the union was allowed to decertify, and then all of a sudden in a free-market system, every player was a free agent and allowed to sign with whoever he chooses. I’m not sure if that’s a feasible scenario since there’s no way this lawsuit plays its way out to the bitter end. From what I’m understanding, the NFL and NBA came to agreements before anything interesting was able to happen in court. On that note, though, I’ve been saying for months that, around this time, one side would start to blink rather than face the assured destruction of the NHL as we know it, and neither side has blinked yet.
Decertification would help out a good chunk of hockey players, since they’d get to pick where to play, and wouldn’t have fourth liners making minimum salaries under the previous system pulling down their value. It would overwhelmingly help rich teams and hockey in Canada, since the Canadians teams have the money to sign these star players. The further down this goes, the more interesting it will get.
Anyway, look what’s happened to Gary Bettman’s NHL. It is December and this is what we are talking about.