Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past week, then you’ve surely noticed that there are a lot of legal terms being tossed around by both sides. These are moves that have been rumored for weeks, so the fact that they have been made is just another step in the process at this point. I still believe this is all posturing, but it’s worth going through the three main items that came up this weekend.
- NHLPA to vote on a DISCLAIMER OF INTEREST. This is a vote to “dis-band” the union. I put disband in quotes because the union itself isn’t disbanding, that is the definition of decertification (more below). A disclaimer of interest is a vote that will see the union terminate representation of the players. In essence, this is the union leaving the players, and Donald Fehr would no longer represent the players.
- Decertification is the exact opposite, it is the players voting to disband the union. This process is incredibly lengthy, unlike a disclaimer of interest.
- Why a disclaimer of interest? Just that – time. Decertification takes weeks. Disclaiming takes days. The end result is the same, and the union would be dissolved. This gives the players the right to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league.
- The NHL counter to decertification/disclaiming is exactly what transpired on Friday: They filed a lawsuit to have the lockout declared legal. It’s a response –in this case a pre-emptive response– to the NHL move to file a Disclaimer of Interest.
- The second item coming from the NHL lawsuit is a declaration that all NHL contracts become void. That means every single player becomes a free agent.
So what does all this mean?
All this means nothing. One look at recent history shows that the NBA followed these exact steps. The NBPA filed a disclaimer of interest in November, and the NBA played a 66 game season starting on Christmas. The obvious connection here, aside from the identical steps being taken by the league and the NHLPA, is that Gary Bettman was an underling of David Stern until he took over as NHL commissioner way back when. They use the same tactics.
Let’s go over each step, in chronological order.
The NHL files their lawsuit to have the lockout declared legal. That’s ok, it’s a pre-emptive strike to gain leverage. That’s easy to figure out. The NBA did this in August of 2011, three months before the NBPA filed their disclaimer of interest.
The second part, the voiding of all player contracts, is just a ploy. Do you really think that Cup contending teams want their players to become free agents? Do you really think the Penguins want Crosby and Malkin on the market? How about the Bruins and Seguin/Bergeron? Minnesota and Granlund/Koivu? The Islanders and…well…uh…bad example.
Moral of the story: The voiding of contracts is a transparent ploy by the owners to strike fear in the players.
So now we look at the disclaimer move by the players. This is also textbook NBA lockout. In this humble blogger’s opinion, this is also a ploy. It worked for the NBPA, as within two weeks of disclaiming, the lockout was resolved.
Both of these moves are all-in type moves. It will result in one of two end-games: The season will be lost or the lockout will end.
This lockout is different from the previous NHL lockout, as an entire overhaul to the NHL business model isn’t required. They are simply tweaking the current model. The reason why it has taken this long is because there are too many egos in the room. The union can’t survive without the owners. The owners can’t survive without the union. The sooner they realize this, the sooner we have hockey.