NHLPA labor challenge exercise in pettiness

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
7:01
PM ET
So, the Alberta Labor Board ruled that the NHL has the right to lock out its players in the province of Alberta.

We couldn't have been less surprised if the ALB confirmed that Wednesday follows Tuesday.

The NHLPA, who challenged the legality of the lockout in the Western Canadian province, went down this route before and was equally unsuccessful. Unfortunately, both sides have had lots of practice in this matter given that the same arguments were raised in various Canadian provinces eight years ago during the last league lockout.

The results have been the same, though, wherever the players’ union has gone looking for legal support in dealing with the NHL when it comes to labor negotiations. Although, a similar filing was made on behalf of several Montreal Canadiens players in Quebec last month, and the judgment was deferred until Oct. 15.

The NHLPA is certainly within their legal right to make such challenges, but what is galling about the whole process is that it speaks to the mindset of the combatants in this ongoing labor skirmish and illustrates why fans are once again without the game on either side of the border.

What, exactly, was the point of the labor board exercise?

Had the players’ association been successful and the lockout been deemed unlawful in Alberta, two of 30 teams -- the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers -- would have had to pay their players the salaries due this season and the players could have gone about their business using team facilities, etc.

Those 50 or so players would have been happy, although one wonders how their brethren on the 28 other teams, who will start missing paychecks in a matter of days, would have felt.

Would a favorable ruling for the players have driven a wedge into the owners’ ranks?

Would the Flames and Oilers ownership groups start to clamor for commissioner Gary Bettman to suddenly divert from the current hardline position and settle with the players had the Labor Board ruled differently? Would the other 28 teams, fearing some sort of competitive advantage by the Oilers and Flames, have pushed for a settlement to maintain a level playing field?

Wishful thinking.

Instead, this was nothing more than an exercise in ticking off the league.

Not that the league doesn’t do everything in its power to tick off the NHLPA.

Think the owners’ first proposal, one straight from the dark ages, didn’t cause the players’ hackles to go up and stunted a more expeditious settlement?

In the end, the labor board excursions, like so much of what goes on between the players and owners, is all about pettiness.

Surely if both sides were as committed to getting a deal done as they claim they are they wouldn’t be wasting time on such sidebar issues.

Surely the amount of time and money spent finding out what the vast majority of hockey observers predicted would be the case in Alberta would have been better spent actually negotiating the core economic issues that threaten to submarine a second season in less than a decade.

Is it any surprise that fans are sickened by the entire bargaining process?

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