Fehr and players

Ask a Lawyer: Would the NHLPA ever try to decertify to end the lockout?


With all the rhetoric emanating from each side of the NHL’s labor dispute, we’ve decided to bring in an actual lawyer to answer a series of questions. Hopefully it will prove useful to you, the reader, because it’s costing us $500 an hour. Please welcome to ProHockeyTalk, sports legal analyst Eric Macramalla.

PHT: Hello again, Eric. We’ve heard about unions voting to decertify in past pro sports labor stoppages. First off, what is that? Why do unions do it? And would the NHLPA every try it to end the lockout?

EM: Facing a lockout in 2011, the NFL Union disclaimed interest. After being locked out, NBA players voted to decertify the Union.

While the terms are different, decertification and disclaiming interest look the same at the end of the day: the Union has been dissolved or blown up. (Decertification refers to employees revoking the authority of their Union to bargain on their behalf, while disclaiming interest refers to the Union terminating its right to represent the players.)

Why are Unions dissolved this way? It’s done so players can file antitrust lawsuits against a league with a view to blocking a lockout, while ultimately looking to gain leverage in labor negotiations.

That begs the question: will the NHLPA and Donald Fehr ever dissolve or blow up the Union?

First things first though – let’s address this antitrust nonsense.

Here are the basics. It is unlawful for competitors to get together and fix the marketplace. When they do so, they open themselves up to antitrust claims. So fast food joints can’t all agree that they will start charging $50 for a hamburger. Back in the 1880s, the U.S. Federal Government wanted to ensure healthy competition and didn’t want to see competitors fixing the marketplace. That was the beginning of antitrust laws in the U.S.

This also applies to sports leagues. By way of example, the NHL has 30 teams that are competitors. However, while they are competitors, they still get together and impose restrictions on the marketplace by way of the terms in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA provides for a salary cap, places limits on free agency and restricts the number of players a team can employ. Teams even share revenues.

Setting up these rules makes sense. A sports league is unique in that it requires a great deal of cooperation among teams to be successful.

So why are leagues generally able to avoid antitrust lawsuits? It’s because these unlawful restrictions are found inside the CBA. Think of the CBA as a protective bubble. While certain terms may be unlawful, by putting them inside the four corners of the CBA, leagues are insulated from these types of antitrust claims. It makes some sense, since a CBA represents an agreement between the employer and its employees. So the CBA rules the day.

That’s where decertification (or disclaiming interest) comes in. Decertification is the pin that bursts the CBA protective bubble. By dissolving a Union, the CBA is no longer able to protect a league against antitrust lawsuits.

Things, though, changed in 2011 when the NFL Union was dissolved and the players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league to block the lockout. The Court of Appeal ruled that despite the Union dissolving itself, the CBA still protected the NFL from the antitrust lawsuit. That was a game changer for leagues.

As a result, antitrust litigation and decertification has become a far less effective tool for players in CBA negotiations. That means it’s highly unlikely that NHL players will decertify the Union. So don’t expect to see it.

Indeed, the message that has been sent by the Court of Appeal is that deals are hammered out at the bargaining table and not in the courtroom.

Eric Macramalla is a partner at a national law firm and TSN’s sports legal analyst. He has covered the legal side of all major sports stories, including the NFL and NBA lockouts, the Saints Bountygate, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens perjury trials, the Ilya Kovalchuk dispute and the Jerry Sandusky case. You can follow him on Twitter at@EricOnSportsLaw and his sports law blog is located at www.OffsideSportsLaw.com.

Ask a Lawyer: If a player has a contract, how can the owners cut his salary?

Dubinsky to have hearing for cross-check on Crosby


Brandon Dubinsky and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will have a chat about his cross-check on Sidney Crosby.

The hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, per beat reporter Aaron Portzline.

As you can see in the above video, Dubinsky delivers a two-handed cross-check to Crosby’s neck, so the fact that he’s getting a hearing is no surprise.

“There’s no secret. I try to play him as hard as I can,” said Dubinsky. “That being said, I don’t try and do anything dirty. I felt like my stick ride up his back a little bit. He’s kind of bent over there in front. But again, that’s not the type of player I am. I’m going to play hard, but try and play fair and play in between the whistle.”

Crosby isn’t willing to give Dubinsky the benefit of the doubt.

Anyone who follows the NHL knows that Dubinsky and Crosby aren’t fans of each other.

The two have engaged in some serious battles, including this fight last February:

Report: Habs will be Price-less for the next month

Carey Price
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It looks like the Canadiens will be without star goaltender Carey Price for the next month, per RDS.

“We still don’t know what the nature of the injury is, but we’re convinced it’s his right knee,” hockey analyst François Gagnon said on a french television show on Friday. “The Canadiens are preparing for him to be out for more than a week. They’re preparing for him to be out for a month.”

Price missed nine games with a lower-body injury between Oct. 30 and Nov. 19.

The 28-year-old won all three of his starts since returning, but he was forced from Wednesday’s game against the Rangers leading some to believe he came back too soon.

After Friday’s win over the Devils, Michel Therrien denied the validity of the report.

The Canadiens will have to provide an update on Price’s injury at some point, but their camp doesn’t typically give many details when it comes to this sort of thing.

Galchenyuk scores a beauty in comeback win over Devils

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The Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk to be the big, skilled center they’d been lacking for years.

Most of his first three NHL seasons were spent at left wing, but over the summer the Canadiens decided it was time to put him down the middle.

The transition to center wasn’t always smooth. Galchenyuk struggled to find the back of the net, and his line, which is supposed to be Montreal’s second line, didn’t generate a ton of offense.

But something’s clicked for Galchenyuk over the last week or so.

The 21-year-old has arguably been the Canadiens’ best forward over the last three games and that’s coincided with the arrival of Sven Andrighetto.

The two youngsters were up to their old tricks, again, on Friday night as they led the charge in Montreal’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Devils.

Andrighetto got Montreal on the board late in the second period when he beat Cory Schneider with a wrister that cut the deficit to 2-1.

With the Canadiens down by one in the third period, head coach Michel Therrien decided to move Galchenyuk to right wing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty.

And with under nine minutes remaining in the final frame, he stole the show:

Galchenyuk has scored in three straight games, while Andrighetto has found the back of the net in back-to-back contests.

Both players added goals in the shootout to complete the comeback over the Devils.

These two teams will face-off in Montreal on Saturday night.

Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

Call it a Dave Tippett special.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

“Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

“It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

“Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.