In the latest edition of our 5 Questions series, we tackle the possible ramification of NHL players dissolving their union, the league's legal action in a U.S. federal court, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly's comments to HNIC Radio that there will be a season.
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1. What does the vote on "disclaimer of interest" mean?
It's been reported that at least two-thirds of the union members voted yes, and the players will move forward with this course of action. It ultimately would mean the union no longer exists. This is a process that can take more than a month (projected at 40 days), and although this move has been made in the NBA and the NFL — it has never got to the final point — a labour settlement has always been negotiated to stop the process. If there is no labour agreement, the legal process moves forward, and it is in the hands of lawyers and judges. Apparently, the players have until Jan. 2 to file this motion.
2. How does the league's subsequent legal action against the players impact the process?
Last Friday, after the players announced they were taking a vote on the potential disclaimer of interest move, the league filed a class-action complaint against the players in U.S. federal court. What did the NHL hope to achieve? One goal was to get a judge to rule their lockout is legal. Owners want to do this because, if the union dissolves itself, the players may go to court to get the lockout ruled illegal. The league also argued the players are not bargaining in good faith, and that the union is only considering a disclaimer of interest vote "to extract more favourable terms and conditions of employment."
3. Are the collective bargaining negotiations dead?
No, there is still the possibility for the two parties to get together and truly negotiate. One could argue that up until now there has been no honest give-and-take that is designed to get a deal. As mentioned above, the disclaimer of interest process led to negotiations in the NBA and the NFL in previous cases. So this move by the players could restart the NHL talks.
4. Is there a drop-dead date for the season?
Sort of. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said there needs to be a 48-game season to have any credibility. If you believe that and do some rudimentary math, that would put the deadline sometime around Jan. 15 — as Hockey Night in Canada commentator Elliotte Friedman suggests — to begin play. Both sides have said it would take about 10 days to start games once they reach an agreement. So we’re generally talking about early January for NHL owners and players to come to a CBA agreement.
5. Should fans be encouraged by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s comment that there will be a season?
Daly's comment on HNIC Radio on Friday can’t hurt. However, that kind of optimism should be tempered. Remember, there are currently no plans to resume talks between the players and owners, and on Friday the league cancelled all games through Jan. 14. Time is running out on salvaging a 48-game season — the same amount the NHL played during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign.