Interesting things

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.

Comments (7)

  1. Sadly, I’m not as sure as you are that it won’t come to across-the-board free agency. Recall that the NHL negotiators rejected out-of-hand even discussing the one-time amnesty that would allow teams to get out of expensive, bad contracts (Redden, Di Pietro, Luongo, Pronger, etc.) in order to fit under a lower cap.

    • well i don’t know what would happen if all player contracts were voided then. i’d assume the players would want to sign to play somewhere

  2. “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.”

    Sigh. Not how this works.

    If the disclaimer is ruled legal, the NHL is still a body whose internal rules require the signing of SPCs, which are, without a union, argued to be invalid. So GMs can’t sign anyone. But more realistically, the NHL just suspends business operations anyway.

    In a state of suspension, in the event that contracts are void WHILE (not since and forever after) there’s no collective bargaining agreement, the players can’t sue individual teams either under antitrust laws or as creditors. If there ever were a CBA with a union, the contracts become valid again. Or, even if they don’t, there would be a clause in that CBA that made them valid.

  3. “then all of a sudden in a free-market system, every player was a free agent and allowed to sign with whoever he chooses”

    Assuming this is how it plays out (a pretty big assumption…I’m confident it doesn’t get this far), it’s interesting to think of where players would want to go, without the current constraints. I imagine you’d have a fair amount of players who have been with a particular team for a long time and will want to stay there, but who knows. Does a Kesler stay in Vancouver if given the choice? He grew up in Michigan… What about Stamkos? Would he want to play for the Leafs, in his home province? intriguing…

    • Oh mannnn…can you imagine the “[Insert Player Name] to the Leafs” rumors that would be out there?

  4. In my life time, I have seen periods of time where Detroit, Chicago, NYR, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, … have all been poorly-run teams, that you I guess would say do not deserve to exist in the NHL. Certainly Detroit, Chicago, NYR are now pretty well run. What is your opinion of Toronto and Montreal? They may be worth a fortune, but are they “well-run”? Are you not encouraged now that prospects are starting to be drafted out of sun-belt markets? What kind of tradition would the NHL have, and what kind of fan base, if you pulled up stakes and fled town every time a franchise stumbled?

    Those of us in “anonymous markets”, such as Dallas, would like to return this to you! http://blogimages.thescore.com/nhl/files/2012/10/super-troopers.jpg

  5. I think it’s Gibbs’s Rule #13: Whatever you do, don’t get lawyers involved.

    When the NFL went to court, it was sexy, Brees, Brady and Manning were the lead plaintiffs, all the judges wanted ‘in’, and it was on the rocket-docket. Ain’t no such love for the NHL. It’s barely covered on the sports pages. Further, a LOT of NHLers are playing hockey despite the lockout, while the NFLers were not. And didn’t the NFLers lose on appeal? I forget. Then again, there is only one Stanley Cup …well, actually aren’t there three ‘official’ Stanley Cups? I recently read they keep the original in a vault and then there are two every-day Cups?

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