Decertification last viable option for players

Decertification last viable option for players
December 1, 2012, 1:15 pm
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NHL players register for the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis

(Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE)

Now that federal mediators have given up on resolving the NHL’s labor dispute, what options remain for the owners and players before they see the 2012-13 season canceled?

It appears there are three:

  • The players representing themselves
  • The NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest
  • The players decertifying

Players facing off against owners. NHL commissioner offered on Friday that he and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr remove themselves from the equation and let the league’s owners and players sit down face-to-face to discuss their differences.

While in theory this seems like a conciliatory gesture, the players are not well-versed in all the technicalities of the offers on the table and would need proper representation when going head-to-head with businessmen running multi-million-dollar corporations.

It’s the reason the players hired Fehr in the first place. So while it’s a nice try by Bettman it’s not a viable solution.

Disclaimer of interest.  Essentially, this is when a union refuses to represent its constituents because it’s incapable of getting what they want.

There are two potential problems with a disclaimer of interest.

For one, the action could be denied by the National Labor Relations Board if the NLRB believes the union eventually wants to resume representation at some point, which in this case it would.

Secondly, the NHL could suspend operations until it can deal with a different union leader and negotiate a new CBA.

That leads to the third and most likely option.

Player decertification. In this case, the players refuse union representation and are no longer governed by labor law. Rather, they are able to file individual anti-trust lawsuits. The downside to decertification is the fact that players relinquish the right to collectively bargain issues such as minimum salaries, pensions and insurance. The NHL could also argue that the NHLPA is using decertification as a short-term negotiating tactic, which would be true.

That’s a risk the NHL players apparently are willing to take.

“Right now, it’s a viable option for us,” Capitals right wing and alternate union rep Troy Brouwer told

“If nothing is going to push the owners to even want to negotiate, maybe this will force their hand. We’re discussing it internally. I don’t know if it’ll be our next move, but it’s definitely in the dialogue. If it’s our most viable option, we’ll move toward it and get the process started.”

Last year, NBA players decertified in mid-November and within two weeks the two sides reached a tentative deal and were on the court playing by Christmas Day.

The NHL window is closing. With the owners gathering on Wednesday for a Board of Governors meeting, it is likely that Bettman will ask for a date in which he seizes negotiations and cancels the entire 2012-13 season.

Since the NHL is hoping for a start date of Jan. 1, it is reasonable to assume that the league’s drop-dead date for a tentative agreement is sometime around Dec.20. Any later, and you can kiss another NHL season goodbye.