NHL lockout can proceed, Quebec labour board rules

The NHL lockout expected to begin tomorrow can go ahead in Quebec, the province's labour board has ruled.

Montreal Canadiens can block players from training camp and withhold salaries

Lawyers Michael Cohen and Rob DeGregory, seen arriving at Quebec's labour board Friday with NHLPA director of operarions Alexandra Dagg, lost their bid for an injunction against the NHL and the Canadiens franchise. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The NHL lockout expected to begin tomorrow can go ahead in Quebec, the province's labour board has ruled.

The NHL Players' Association and 16 Montreal Canadiens players had filed an application for an injunction to stop the looming lockout, at least in Quebec.

The players argued in a hearing before the board Friday that a lockout would violate the province's labour laws because the players association is not an accredited union in Quebec.

The labour board refused the request for an injunction in a ruling issued Friday night. It said because of the urgency of the matter, it was giving no reasons for its decision for now but will publish them later.

National Hockey League deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the ruling comes as no surprise.

"We are hopeful that this ruling will cause the players' association to cease pursuing these needless distractions and instead focus all of its efforts and energies on making progress at the bargaining table," he said in a news release.

A full hearing into whether the lockout is legal in Quebec will still proceed, the labour board said. That will likely happen in the next few weeks.

NHLPA general counsel Don Zavelo he was "pleased with the ruling" for that reason. 

"While the [labour board] denied the players' request for emergency relief, it also rejected the NHL's request to dismiss the case," Zavelo said in a release. "We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec Labour Code and look forward to presenting our case."

If the lockout begins, as is widely anticipated, it will be the league's fourth work stoppage since 1992 and first since the 2004-05 season was wiped out.

The NHL's board of governors voted unanimously Thursday to lock out the players if no agreement is reached by the time the current collective agreement expires at midnight Saturday.

Similar case in Alberta

Alexandra Dagg of the players' association said the goal of the Canadiens team members' application is to get access to team facilities for players.

"What we are… trying at least to have the training camp open so that they can begin practising," she said.

"The training camp is scheduled to open on Sept. 21 if there is no lockout imposed, and we want to at least get the players on the ice practising and getting ready for the season."

The players also wanted to retain their salaries outlined in their individual contracts and be permitted to play games.

Players filed a similar application in Alberta on Thursday, Dagg said.

No players attended the hearings in Montreal, and no date has been set for Alberta hearings.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had dismissed the filing in Quebec as a "tactic."

"We don't believe the provincial jurisdiction on the labour front is something that we're subject to," he said.

Meanwhile in New York, the NHL and the union said they've been in touch but no new negotiating sessions are scheduled in advance of Saturday's deadline.

Read the NHLPA's injunction application (in French):

With files from The Canadian Press