No decision on legality of lockout

Updated: September 21, 2012, 11:06 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

A lengthy hearing before the Alberta Labour Relations Board about the legality of the NHL lockout ended without a decision Friday night, a spokesperson for the ALRB told ESPNNewYork.com. No decision is expected until early next week.

Both the NHL and the NHL Players' Association presented their cases in front of a three-person panel in Edmonton on Friday. The union filed an application on behalf of 21 players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, asserting the league-imposed lockout that began last weekend is illegal under Alberta Labour code.

The NHL is arguing to have the filing dismissed.

A similar battle was waged last week before the Quebec Labour Relations Board, when a judge turned down the union's request for immediate injunctive relief against a lockout. The hearing was subsequently deferred until Oct. 15, a QLRB spokesperson told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday morning.

The provincial labor battles are just the latest in a series of standoffs between the NHL and NHLPA, who remain as far apart now as they were when the lockout began last Sunday. The union and league have remained in touch -- NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr are in contact almost daily -- but formal discussions have been stalled since the two exchanged proposals Sept. 12.

About a half-dozen players attended Friday's hearing, including Oilers forward Sam Gagner, goaltender Devan Dubnyk and veteran Ryan Smyth.

Since the lockout began, some players have signed with European teams. NHL training camps were to have opened Friday. The league already has canceled preseason games through Sept. 30.

NHLPA lawyer Bob Blair told the panel that Edmonton and Calgary are Alberta businesses, so provincial labor laws must be followed.

"No one gets to choose what labor laws apply to them in this province," Blair said. "The law is the law is the law."

He said players from the Oilers and Flames never agreed to forgo their rights under the Alberta Labour Code.

"It applies to every employer and employee," he said. "That is the starting point."

NHL lawyer Peter Gall pointed out that 23 of the 30 teams are in the United States and work under the same rules because labor laws there are federally regulated.

"So all of the players on all of the teams have been included in one bargaining unit," Gall said. "The NHLPA has never bargained with individual teams. It has only bargained with the NHL."

Daly told the panel there never has been individual bargaining between players and their teams. He said it's important all teams operate under the same rules.

Blair countered by saying the way the league and union operated in the past is irrelevant.

It's unclear what might follow if the board were to rule in favor of the NHLPA's request, but Daly said he couldn't imagine the fallout if that were to happen.

"It would be extremely destabilizing to how we do business and how we conduct this sports league," he said. "I don't know how we would proceed in the face of separate units in Alberta."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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