NHL lockout all but set with no bargaining set

By Ira Podell

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15 2012 2:06 p.m. MDT

The most recent proposal from the league — with a six-year term — came in direct response to one put forth by the union earlier Wednesday that was rejected as being similar to the players' two previous offers.

Instead of making a percentage-based offer, the union is seeking a deal that would guarantee players annually at least the $1.8 billion in salaries paid out last season.

Bettman said the league's latest offer would be pulled off the table once the current CBA expired because immediate damage caused by a lockout would force the NHL to reassess what it could then offer.

In the previous lockout, both sides dug in over the salary cap. Owners wouldn't make a deal without it, and players sacrificed a full season before finally agreeing to a cost-certainty system for teams.

Without such a philosophical difference this time, the sides merely have to figure out a way to divide hockey revenues that grew from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion under the expiring deal.

On Friday, the Quebec labor relations board rejected a request from the players' association for a temporary injunction against a potential lockout in Quebec. But the board also ruled that more hearings are needed to make a final decision on a request by 16 members of the Montreal Canadiens and the players' association to declare a lockout illegal in the province. No date was set for those hearings.

With the ruling, Canadiens players will be locked out with their colleagues, at least for now.

Daly said in a statement the league was "extremely appreciative" of the decision.

"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," he said.

Likewise, the union was "pleased" with the ruling because it 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," union general counsel Don Zavelo said in a statement.

"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 NHLPA argued that because it isn't certified as a union with the province, its members can't be locked out under Quebec labor law.

A similar request was filed late Thursday with the Alberta labor relations board. NHLPA director of operations Alexandra Dagg said the aim was to prevent players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames from being locked out.

In Alberta, the union will argue that proper labor negotiating procedure wasn't followed, including using a mediator.

The current contract was agreed to in 2005, and Bob Goodenow resigned as union head two weeks later. After stints by Ted Saskin and Paul Kelly, the union in 2010 turned to Donald Fehr, who led baseball players through three work stoppages in the 1980s and '90s.

Players struck in April 1992, causing 30 games to be postponed. This would be the third lockout under Bettman. The 1994-95 lockout ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games.

The most recent lockout was finally settled in July 2005 — 301 days into the work stoppage and a month after the league would usually have awarded the Stanley Cup. It marked the first time a North American professional sports league lost an entire season because of a labor dispute, and the first time the Stanley Cup wasn't handed out since 1919, when a flu epidemic caused no champion to be crowned.

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