Quebec 1, NHLPA 0

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One of the last remaining options for hockey to be played on schedule as the clock ticks down to a lockout has apparently been exhausted.

After hearing a combined five hours worth of argument in one of its regional bureaus in Montreal on Friday, the Quebec Labor Board ruled in favor of the National Hockey League and the Canadiens, saying that provincial law does not make it illegal to lock out players.

The decision was originally reported by RDS of Canada to have been announced some time on Saturday.

It was an unprecedented and rapid development that wiped out the mock outrage of Dave Stubbs from the Montreal Gazette who tweeted “Quebec labour board to render a decision by midnight on a SATURDAY? Power of #Habs = government agency working on a weekend.”

Gary Rosen, who was picked to represent the NHL and the Canadiens, said their main argument is that provincial labor code doesn’t apply to this case. That is countered by Michael Cohen, backing the NHLPA, saying that provincial labor code has been violated and that should prevent a lockout.

The Board, with Judge Andrée St-Georges presiding, did not specify the reasons behind its decision, but multiple reports, including that of Michael Grange of Sportsnet, reported that the commission has put off a decision on whether or not the PA is an actual union until next week, at which time a full hearing is scheduled.

“We are pleased but not surprised with the Quebec Labour Board’s ruling tonight that any lockout of players will be effective on a league-wide basis including in Quebec, and we are extremely appreciative of expeditious and decisive manner in which the matter was handled,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a release on Friday night. “We are hopeful that this ruling will cause Players’ Association to cease pursuing these needless distractions and instead focus all of its efforts and energies on making progress at the bargaining table.”

The QLB has been granted legal “personhood” status to interpret the Quebec Civil Code as it pertains to the 1980 ratification of the Quebec Act regarding labor standards, and reports directly to the Minister of Labor. 

““We are pleased with the ruling that the Commission released tonight. While the Commission denied the players’ request for emergency relief, it also 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. We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec Labour Code and look forward to presenting our case to the Commission in the future,” stated NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr.

“Should the NHL carry out its threat to lock out the players in Quebec, it will do so at its own risk.”

In this case, an entity which does not represent business or political interests interpreted current laws, then ruled in favor of current labor practices and against the 16 Canadiens under contract named in the action.

Meanwhile, the application in front of the Alberta Labor Relations Board, which was presented late on Thursday in Edmonton, will finally be heard on September 21.

The basis of that appeal relies on the union’s assertion that “proper procedure” was not followed in determining the legality of an organization being able to lock players out.

There are less than 27 hours remaining until the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires.