Feb. 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke talks about being part of the NHL 2013 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings during press conference at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

LOCKOUT: Day Nine - Blame Canada!(for getting hockey back early?)

We Americans are seen as litigious people.  Give anyone a bad enough idea or a half-baked reason, and they’re off to court. I think the overwhelming number of frivolous lawsuits based on hurt feelings or general lack of common sense is paralyzing our judicial system. Why can’t we see lawsuits based upon integrity and righteousness?  Well, perhaps we should take a look at our neighbors to the north to see how  a lawsuit should be filed.

At the time of the production of this article, no formal talks have resumed between the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA.  However, both sides were required to meet in a Canadian court on Friday.  The subject of this court appearance was rather ingenious.  The NHL players’ union has accused both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames of ignoring provincial regulations before locking out their players.  That’s not all.  In the province of Quebec, it was announced that a labor board would convene.  This board, which is scheduled to meet on October 15th, would hear arguments from the NHLPA in regards to the legality of the Montreal Canadiens lockout of their players.

OK, I am no lawyer, and at best having a casual familiarity with the legal system. I have to wonder if Canadian law is that far removed from our own. Under Alberta law, a mediator must be appointed before an employer can impose a lockout. The NHLPA objected to the NHL’s right to do so on the grounds it failed to take proper steps during the process and showed no willingness to work with a mediator.  I admit, its a bit of a stretch, but then again, I’m not a barrister. Now, the Quebec courts did shoot down a players’ motion regarding their status as a union, but they NHLPA might still find relief on the basis of a lack of mediator.

Canadian law might be the surprise leverage for the players to get the hockey season on track. What if the Albertan and/or the Quebec court find in favor of the players and drop sanctions and/or fines against those owners? All exciting flavors of h-e-double hockey sticks WILL break loose. Those owners will scream bloody blue murder to our own Mr. Jacobs and pretty much demand the head of Bettman on a plate. (Never mind, they voted for the lockout in the first place.)

Granted, any sanctions imposed by a Canadian court would have virtually no power on this side of the border. Yet a pro-player verdict would compel the owners to sit down with the players, especially if the court enacted a fine that was charged per diem. Having three successful franchises suddenly being forced to the negotiation table would be the ‘slap shot heard round the league’ and might give us back NHL hockey.

I’m sure Gary Bettman has to appreciate the irony. It wasn’t that long ago when he and the NHL were trying to get the owners of the New York Rangers kicked out of the league back in 2008 (for supposed violation of anti-trust laws). Back then, when the league was going after Madison Square Garden, one of their spokespersons offered this thought on the league. “Not surprisingly, the NHL is once again proving why an independent judge must address our claims. Despite trying to resolve our differences privately, the league has responded with excessive fines and now threats that have nothing to do with the merits of our position.”  Does any of this sound familiar hockey fans?

As I am unfamiliar with Canadian court protocol, I have to ask this question.  Do you think they would allow cheerleaders to attend the hearing?



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