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NHL Montreal Canadiens

Quebec Could Rule Potential NHL Lockout Illegal

Here’s an interesting development in the possibility of an NHL lockout: the fact that it could be ruled illegal and invalidated–at least in the province of Quebec–and create some interesting precedent.

Per Allan Walsh, who describes himself as a sports agent and lawyer on Twitter, Quebec law dictates that an employer cannot lock out their employees unless they have union representation. The players’ union, the NHLPA, is not recognized as a union in Quebec because it has not been certified by the Quebec Labour Board (or Commission des normes du travail du Quebec).

Therefore, technically, NHL players don’t have a union in Quebec and it could be argued that a lockout would be illegal there. Back in 2005, the NHLPA went to start the certification process in Quebec, but the NHL formally opposed certification and so the process was dropped, Walsh said.

Knowing that, Walsh reports that the players of the Montreal Canadiens have served their club and the NHL with a cease and desist letter.

Walsh speculates that the Quebec Labour Board could rule a lockout illegal and invalidate it within the providence’s jurisdiction.

Renaud Lavoie, a reporter with the French-language RDS channel, has written in French about the topic. As I do not read fluent French, I ran his report through Google Translate to at least get the gist of it, even though some of the grammar comes out a little flukey. One sentence in particular came out sounding slightly awkward in English, but still intriguing:

If the Commission agrees, it would require the Montreal Canadiens end the lockout, if there is one tripped.

Basically, the ownership of the Canadiens would not be allowed to lock out its players and the players are seeking an order to prohibit that from happening. It is unclear if this legal defense would extend to other provinces or U.S. states, but searches for similar laws are reportedly underway in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, home of the other Canadian-based teams, according to to Montreal Gazette reporter Dave Stubbs.

American-based inquiries into lockout legality would be handled probably on a state-by-state level or with the National Labor Relations Board. Some states have stronger union protections than others–Southern states, for example, tend to be “right to work” states where unions are weaker than in other states.

“The players are committed to reaching a fair deal with the NHL owners through CBA negotiations and we have told the NHL that the players are willing to continue to negotiate if an agreement isn’t reached prior to the expiration of the CBA,” said Erik Cole, the Canadiens’ alternate NHLPA representative, to Stubbs over email. “The NHL seems content to lock out the players if an agreement isn’t reached this week and we would like the Quebec Labour Board to step in and inform them that their lockout would be in direct violation of the Quebec labour laws.”