NHL Lockout: One giant game of chicken

Bruce Bennett

Who is going to blink first, the NHL or NHLPA?

A common theme for the NHL lockout is "one step forward, two steps back."

Right when the owners and players seem to be making headway toward a deal, an issue comes up and destroys all progress. This time it's due to something that hasn't even happened yet.

Late last week, word got out the NHLPA was leaning toward filing a "disclaimer of interest" with the courts. By doing so, the players association would be on the path to decertification as a union, a tactic used in the most recent NBA and NFL lockouts. In the simplest of terms, by decertifying, the players, acting as individuals, are able to file anti-trust lawsuits against the owner of the team they are under contract with, starting a snowball of other issues.

Remember, no decision has been made by the players to file the motion with the courts. The NHLPA is considering this path.

As a preemptive measure, the NHL went to court first and filed a class action lawsuit against the players union and specific players on the negotiating committee. The primary argument in their complaint is that the NHLPA is "negotiating in bad faith." This lawsuit could take months, maybe even years, to resolve, should there not be a deal between the two parties.

Fire meet tinder.

Starting Sunday, the NHLPA began voting to authorize the executive committee to decertify, should they choose to do so. Two-thirds of players voting need to be in favor of the move for it to pass. Should it pass, this doesn't mean the NHLPA automatically decertifies; it is simply giving the negotiating committee permission to decertify, if they want to.

Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, claim decertification will definitely lead to a cancellation of the season. It could be a bluff. Who knows? As of Monday night, no talks between either side are scheduled, thus extending the staring contest.

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