Now the legal battle between the NHL and NHLPA can really begin.
NHLPA vote passes overwhelmingly in favor of enabling Disclaimer of Interest.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 21, 2012
There hasn't been word whether the NHLPA will file the disclaimer of interest, but the NHLPA executives have until Jan. 2 to do so.
If the NHLPA walks away from the players, the NHL won't have anyone to negotiate with, which means players can file anti-trust lawsuits against the league.
Our legal expert, Eric Macramalla, who's been helping us out during the lockout, explains the difference between decertification and filing a disclaimer of interest on TSN.ca.
While decertification is the players walking away from the union, a disclaimer of interest is the union walking away from the players. So a disclaimer of interest occurs when the union terminates its right to represent the players. It's also a less formal process than decertification. It can be as quick as Donald Fehr sending a letter to the commissioner's office declaring the NHLPA no longer represents the players as a bargaining agent. There's no vote, no petition and no decertification election.
That pretty clearly states what's next in this process. It's likely that key players will now file suit against the NHL seeking anti-trust damages.
The thought of the NHL players defeating the NHL should scare the NHL owners. It could cost them millions of dollars in damages and attorney fees. Now the battle begins on where the lawsuits should be heard. The NHL already filed in employer-friendly New York, and the players are likely to file in employee-friendly California. More from Mr. Macramalla:
Once the NHLPA is dissolved, the players could bring a court action in a state like California. Thereafter, a messy battle could follow as to where the case should be heard -- New York or California.
The reason the players went the disclaimer-of-interest route rather than with decertification is because time is running short. A 48-game season is still possible if the league can start up by Jan. 15. If not, another lost season is possible.
The disclaimer of interest is probably a negotiation tactic from the NHLPA. It needs some leverage in this situation. It's commonly known that the NHL is following the game plan set out by the Law Firm That is Ruining Sports, otherwise known as Proskauer Rose.
Filing litigation helped settle the NFL and NBA lockouts in the last 18 months, and, as hockey fans, we can only hope that this brings a quick resolution. I don't think the NHL wants to face its players in court.