Labour Bored

Earlier in the week, it was revealed by multiple sources throughout North America, TSN and RDS chief among them, that the National Hockey League Players Association intended to file briefs on behalf of their clients to the Quebec Labor Board.

Added to that, was the report of a similar case to be presented in Alberta on behalf of the two clubs residing in its two largest cities.

The argument, at its core, states that since the union is not certified in the province, it is illegal for the Canadiens organization to lock out players.

This is a stunning turnaround from events that took place in 2004, when the PA attempted to become certified there to prevent the NHL from using replacement players if that lockout would have stretched into the planned 2005-06 season.

Originally tweeted by RDS’ Renaud Lavoie on Wednesday morning, 16 players on the Canadiens roster filed an application to the Commission Des Relations Du Travail to clear up the matter, and in a further tweet, Lavoie revealed the entity will hear the case at an emergency meeting at 10:30 AM on Friday at one of its chief regional offices located in Montreal.

Puck Daddy himself then took to the Twitsphere to ask if it is true solidarity when 16 Habs are named in the application but 23 are, in fact, on the roster.

To that I say, my North Jersey-raised Polish brother, perhaps the other seven — on a team with a very youthful makeup — will benefit from the NHL-AHL transfer rules and wouldn’t be adversely affected by a negative outcome?

NHL Deputy Commish Bill Daly had a great quote about this situation on Monday evening, as told to NHL.com: “The filings are intended to interfere with the broader labor negotiating process. They will have absolutely zero impact on the broader negotiation, or on the deal we ultimately agree on.”

He’s right you know. Even though he’s taken on the mantle of “good cop” between he and Gary Bettman and is on the side that is apparently the most demonized among the two, this move by the PA smacks of the same end-around back-room BS of which the league could easily be accused.

While it may be a great show of strength, solidarity, or whatever other abstract noun the PA chiefs can push to the masses, having 100, 200, or 650 players show up at the confab in Manhattan today while separate shenanigans on the behalf of a certain other part of their faction are being contested in another country, doesn’t show anyone that business is being attended to.

No matter who you blame, the fact is that unless the players instruct Don and Steve Fehr to move ahead with things thanks to a new proposal, and make a serious push to rectify this impasse before the 11:59 PM deadline at the end of the week, it’s all a smokescreen.

Suppose the filing in Quebec, and the rumored one in Alberta are upheld. That means players on three Canadian clubs can be paid and have a right to use team facilities while a potential lockout drags on.

But wait…there are seven Canadian clubs. And 23 American teams who will be left out in the lurch. How’s that for solidarity?

Unless the legal boulevard from that point includes a slippery slope that would mean all remaining clubs could conceivably find legal strongholds, the filings in Canada smack of separatism the Parti Quebecois would have loved to gain back in 1995.

While it can be inferred that these legal actions are the equivalent of dipping a toe into the lake to gauge it’s temperature, a win on any or all fronts turns that dip into a death struggle against the mysterious force pulling from below.

Once again, the NHL would know it has the upper hand, as it sits back and watches a splinter group get what it wants while the other teams wait in vain. The whole effort is the exact opposite of the tough public face Fehr displays for the PA as it stands breathing hot, waiting for the league to flinch.

In any case, the first hearing is scheduled for Edmonton this evening, with Daly representing the NHL side, per Lavoie.

Meanwhile, we wait and we wonder as the two sides talk today and presumably, tomorrow in New York. It may be thrilling to hear all 275 players tweet about heading into the steel and asphalt jungle, but wouldn’t you rather see 275 x 140 characters saying some variation of “We got a deal done,” instead?

The NHL has announced a press conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel for 3:30 PM on Thursday with a conference call in the offing.

There are 82 hours remaining on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.