A ruling from the Quebec Labour Relations Board on Friday denied the NHL Players' Association's request for an immediate injunction against the lockout, although the board still plans to hear the case further.
The NHLPA is not recognized as a certified union under Quebec Labour law, which prompted the union to argue that any lockout imposed by the league would be unlawful.
The Quebec Labour Relations Board held an emergency hearing Friday morning on behalf of the filing by 16 players from the Montreal Canadiens. It later rejected the union's request for emergency relief against what appears to be an imminent work stoppage.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated the league's intent to lock out the players if no deal is reached by midnight ET Saturday, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. Bettman received a unanimous vote from the owners in support of a league-imposed lockout Thursday.
"They moved for a provisional remedy enjoining the lockout," deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com. "They didn't get it."
The board, though, will hear the case further at a date yet to be given.
"We are pleased with the ruling that the commission released tonight," NHL Players' Association general counsel Don Zavelo said in a statement. "While the commission denied the players' request for emergency relief, it also rejected the NHL's request to dismiss the case. The ruling acknowledges that the players have raised issues about the legality of the NHL's planned lockout that require a full hearing on the merits.
"We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec labor code and look forward to presenting our case to the commission in the near future. Should the NHL carry out its threat to lock out the players in Quebec, it will do so at its own risk."
The league also was encouraged by the initial ruling, but it expressed frustration that the union was turning to Canadian provincial law to try and block a lockout.
"We are pleased but not surprised with the Quebec Labour Board's ruling tonight that any lockout of players will be effective on a league-wide basis, including in Quebec, and we are extremely appreciative of the expeditious and decisive manner in which the matter was handled," Daly said in a statement. "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."
The union is still seeking action that could impede the lockout elsewhere, however.
With the help of the NHLPA, several players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have appealed to the Alberta Labour Relations Board to challenge a lockout, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com.
According to a document obtained by ESPNNewYork.com, 21 players are listed as complainants in the filing before the ALRB: Chris Butler, Matt Stajan, Mike Cammalleri, Blake Comeau, Derek Smith, Tim Jackman, Dennis Wideman, Jarome Iginla, Sam Gagner, Nick Schultz, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Whitney, Eric Belanger, Corey Potter, Mark Giordano, Ryan Smyth, Mikael Backlund, Miikka Kiprusoff, Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Jones and Henrik Karlsson.
A hearing with the ALRB will take place Sept. 21, the board confirmed.