NHL sues for lockout legality, files claim against union

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks in New York. (Nov. 9, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The lockout just got uglier. The NHL and NHLPA are going to court.

The NHL on Friday filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking a declaration that the three-month lockout, which has triggered the cancellation of 526 games as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star weekend in January, is legal. The league also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the union of "bad-faith bargaining."

"Today, in response to information indicating that NHL Players have or will be asked to vote to authorize the National Hockey League Players' Association's Executive Board to proceed to 'disclaim interest' in continuing to represent the Players in collective bargaining, the National Hockey League filed a Class Action Complaint in Federal Court in New York seeking a Declaration confirming the ongoing legality of the lockout," the league said in a press release.

"Simultaneously with the filing of its Complaint, the NHL also filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that by threatening to 'disclaim interest,' the NHLPA has engaged in an unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process and conduct that constitutes bad faith bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act," the statement continued.

There was no immediate response from the union.

Earlier in the day, there were multiple reports that the union's executive committee notified 700-plus players of a vote to give the board the option of filing a disclaimer of interest -- as the NBA players did last November -- if they so choose. It did not schedule a vote. If one was taken, a two-thirds majority is needed for approval.

A disclaimer of interest dissolves the union by terminating its right to represent the players, and allows players to file anti-trust suits.

The NBA players association did so last November during a lockout, and two weeks later, a tentative collective bargaining agreement was reached and a 66-game season was played. The suit was withdrawn.

The NFL players' association took a similar route during the 2011 lockout, which was resolved without missing any regular-season games. In that labor case, the NFL players voted to decertify their union rather than file a disclaimer of interest. In decertification, it is the players walking away from the union, and a disclaimer of interest is the union walking away from the players.

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