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Howard Simon's Blog

Why Would NHL Players Decertify?

If this week’s talks between the NHL and NHLPA don’t produce a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, lawyers for the respective sides might assume the key roles.  The players could opt to dissolve the union in an effort to beat the NHL in the courts.

The NHLPA  could go in one of two directions for their next step.  They can file a disclaimer of interest which basically says the union is walking away from the players.  The other option is to decertify which means the players have decided to essentially blow up the union.

Either way, it allows the players to then sue the NHL in an effort to lift the lockout and force the games to be played.  Eric Macramalla is a sports attorney based in Ottawa and joined the WGR Morning show on Tuesday to explain all of this in easy terms. 

“Things like a salary cap, restrictions on free agency, rookie pay, the draft, all these things are anti- trust or competition law violations” Macramalla said. “ They’re actually unlawful but they’re inside the four corners of the CBA and the CBA acts as a protective bubble for the NHL.  Decertification is the pin that blows up that protective bubble. The players can go ahead and sue the NHL for all these anti-trust violations. “

Decertification is a much longer process than the disclaimer of interest.  Decertification requires collecting signatures through a petition and eventually a vote by the players.  The process could take a minimum of two months which would severely diminish the chances of a season being played unless the threat of decertification by the NHLPA scares the owners into settling.

The disclaimer of interest is instantaneous meaning the players could sue the NHL the very next day after filing. “Disclaiming interest will give the players leverage” Macramalla told WGR. “ It may work in the short term and help get something done but if anybody who tells you that  anti-trust litigation with a sports league is going to end a certain way, they’re just making it up because no one knows.  These things are entirely complex and go in any number of  ways.”

So if there’s no guarantee dissolving the union will mean victory for the players, why would they even attempt it?  “If the NHL players feel like there’s no more room to compromise, that nothing can be gained by talking and they are completely out of reasonable options, then they have no choice but to turn to the nuclear and dramatic option that is decertification” Macramalla said. “There’s no doubt that if the union blows itself up, it makes getting hockey in the short term more unlikely.”

You can follow Eric Macramalla on twitter:  @ericonsportslaw.  Here is the entire interview:

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