The NHLPA is set to allow players the ability to vote for disbanding their union. This was an idea thrown out in both the NFL and NBA lockouts last year, but with the NHL lockout dragging out far longer than the lockouts in both of those sports, the threat now seems legitimate. With talks stalled again, games canceled through January 14th and the season about to be canceled, disbanding and subsequent anti-trust suits against the owners would likely play out in court. Additionally, the owners filed suits against NHL players saying they are not bargaining. The results of these potential lawsuits would not only affect the NHL, but all of the American professional sports.
The geniuses of sports need to come together now. Bud Selig, MLB Commissioner, David Stern, NBA Commissioner and Roger Goodell, Supreme Ruler of the NFL, should convince Gary Bettman to force a settlement in the labor dispute before it hurts all of them. Any ruling in a U.S. court would have consequences for all of the leagues and the odds seem to be stacked against the owners regarding the legality of the lockout. The three leagues ahead of the NHL in popularity do not want to be dragged down by hockey. I guess it’s better than soccer though.
The NHL’s claim that the players are bargaining in poor faith has almost no chance of succeeding in the U.S. courts. It is hard to prove when multiple reports have come out that the owners openly were bargaining in bad faith. The consensus is that the last round of NHL talks died when the NHLPA wanted to bring Donald Fehr, their representation, back into the room. If for some reason the NHL wins their suit, the players would all be declared free agents, opening the door for a spending frenzy.
On the player’s side, there seems to be a splintering among the NHLPA that would justify decertification. The vast inequality in salaries means that representing all players in the same form is kind of ridiculous. It would be like pooling the contracts of Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn and believing they deserve the same compensation. However, a decertification would by definition make the lockout illegal and bring another lawsuit into the U.S. court system.
The commissioners and owners of the other three leagues do not want to suffer the fate of the NHL. It is in the best interest of all parties for the NHL lockout to end and the season to be played. The NHL owners’ case was assigned to an Obama appointed judge and with the President condemning the lockout, the decision may prove unfavorable to the NHL owners.