From the viewpoint of at least one legal expert, it sounds like the NHLPA may have some success with its grievance filed against the Los Angeles Kings for terminating Mike Richards’ contract.
To remind you of the situation, the Kings seemed primed to buy out Richards, yet they instead terminated his deal while citing a “material breach” of his contract related to a border incident. As of this time, it doesn’t appear as though any charged surfaced from the reported incident. The NHLPA finally filed a grievance on Richards’ behalf a few days ago.
So, do the 30-year-old forward and the players’ union have a case? It sure sounds like, especially if Forbes’ Eric Macramalla is correct in his assessment.
The full explanation is worth your time, but the short version from Macramalla is that it comes down to how this terminated contract ignores the process laid about by the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse And Behavioral Program Policy.
The most severe discipline called for under the Drug Policy for repeated rehab failures is a one year suspension without pay with reinstatement at the discretion of the league. We do not know all the circumstances surrounding Richards. The starting point, however, is the Drug Policy and its prescribed treatment protocols.
The Drug Policy does not call for the termination of a player contract in the event of an arrest or conviction related to drugs. It calls for a lot less.
Macramalla points out something that’s sneakily the most important detail, though: it sounds like the situation will get a fair arbitrator.
The grievance will not be heard by Gary Bettman or Roger Goodell for that matter. This goes to an impartial arbitrator with extensive labor law experience.
That’s pretty huge, to be honest.
He also breaks down a recent history of grievances regarding terminated contracts in other sports, concluding that those situations often end up in a player’s favor.
Again, check out the Forbes piece if you’re even slightly interested in the situation, as there is a lot of great information.
One way or another, it should be a fascinating situation to watch, and an important decision regarding guaranteed contracts and the league’s drug policy.