NHL lockout: Alberta labor board rules in favor of NHL, won't lift lockout in province

NHLLockoutThe Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) has ruled in favor of the NHL in the NHLPA's attempt to have the lockout lifted in the Canadian province on grounds it violates the Labour Relations Code. As a result, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers will remain locked out with the other 28 NHL teams.

This is the second time the NHLPA was shut down on such an attempt. You'll recall it first tried it in Quebec under the same principal, saying it violated the labour relations rules in that province. Just like Alberta, that was shot down by the courts.

In the ruling from the ALRB, the decision reads:

The policy rationale outlined by Mr. Adams is the same as that utilized by this Board -- that is, we will apply our labour relations expertise in determining whether to issue declarations involving strikes and lockouts and, if we do, to what extent. We are of the opinion this is a case where it makes labour relations sense to exercise our discretion not to make a declaration of unlawful conduct and not to issue any remedy.

The ruling goes on to cite numerous reasons why that was the conclusion of the court. One of those reasons seems more interesting than others, at least to me.

Finally, for this Board to intervene in this dispute and declare the lockout illegal as it relates to the Alberta teams and their players (or otherwise interfere with the progress of collective bargaining on a league-wide basis) would be detrimental to the ongoing relationship between the parties and the ability of the league to function properly. The result of such an intervention by this Board would be to effectively remove the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers teams and players from the league-wide collective bargaining process that the parties have historically engaged in and has been established and recognized under the NLRA. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers Clubs could not participate in the league-wide lockout in which the rest of the League is engaged as part of the current collective bargaining process.

Basically, if the court did rule in favor of the NHLPA then those teams would be forced to be out of the loop as the CBA talks go on. Another way this case is different and why the court sided with the NHL was because the union knew this was possible and did have a chance to stop it from happening.

In the end this means very little. It was nothing more than an attempt to try and exert some pressure from the union, at worst a distraction for the NHL to deal with. It was some sabre rattling that did seem to have NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly perturbed when he was the one who was forced to represent the NHL in Quebec and Alberta.

His comments were toned down a bit from the Quebec ruling which he labeled as a pointless gesture. Here was Daly's statement on the ruling.

"We are pleased with the Alberta Labour Board’s ruling today that the lockout of Players is effective on a League-wide basis, including in Alberta, and we are extremely appreciative of the decisive manner in which the matter was handled.

"We are hopeful that this ruling will enable both the League and the NHL Players' Association to focus all of our efforts and energies on negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to get our game and our Players back on the ice."

Daly didn't have to say it was pointless, though. The Alberta court said it for him. "This is nothing more than an unhelpful distraction from efforts [to reach a new CBA]." Think about how much better the time to deal with this case could have been used.

The NHLPA, meanwhile, issued its own statement.

"The players are obviously disappointed with today's decision. Unfortunately, the Alberta Labour Relations Board decided not to exercise its discretion to determine whether the owners' lockout violates Alberta law. We will consider our further options with regard to this case.

"In the meantime, the players want to play, the fans want to watch the game, and the many workers and business owners who are dependent on NHL hockey for their livelihood want the season to start. We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement at the earliest possible time and hope that the NHL begins to show a willingness to do so."

Hey, at least they are both saying they're committed to getting a deal done, now hopefully they will show it and actually talk about economic issues.

The good news is there doesn't appear to be any more provinces or states where the NHLPA could make the same case. We're just going to have to wait for everybody to get together and reach a deal for this lockout to be lifted, not by means of a court.

On the negative side, this means we won't have 82 installments of the Battle of Alberta (and then possibly seven more for the Stanley Cup). Canada was dreaming of getting the Cup back north of the border.

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