Well, both sides have decided to stop talking and take their argument to the next level. The case was assigned today to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer. Engelmayer, who joined the bench in July 2011 is a former federal prosecutor who once tried the case against a young woman trying to extort millions of dollars from Bill Cosby. The case was filed on Friday in New York, which is a shrewd move for the league.
By choosing New York as the battleground, the NHL is hoping that the issue over the lockout’s legal status will be decided in a court that may by instinct learn towards the owner. (Judge Engelmayer is also reported to be a Yankees fan, but there is no accounting for taste.) The league is betting a lot on this suit. If the judge rules that the current lockout is in fact illegal, it will throw the entire NHL into chaos.
If the players win this judgment, they would be due compensation for lost wages. It is not much of a stretch to see that if the owners lose, a few of them (Phoenix, Columbus, maybe even a few others) could file for bankruptcy protection. This is one of those classic “no matter who wins, we all lose” situations. The players win, a few clubs fold, the owners appeal and its no season for anyone.
What if the owners win? Well, thanks to Bettman going nuclear, the players will happily vote for decertification out of spite. Look at that last few months. A lot of the players have taken to social media to thank the fans for their support and give both barrels to Bettman. Now, the players discover that the NHL was monitoring social networking sites and using that as part of the basis for the suit. Yup, that will send seven hundred professional hockey players on a rage spiral. They’ll vote that the sky is orange if there part of the referendum includes a suggestion where Bettman can go off to.
The vote will pass. It will pass by a wide margin. The union will be decertified, and someone at the home office will be warming up the fireworks for the next round against the owners. At that point, both sides will be ensconced in fully armed camps and any possibility of a hockey season will be a pipe dream. Remember when the owners killed the last season? Where they fought for a system that would work for everyone? Well, with this lockout, they have invalidated the reason behind the 04-05 lockout. Well played, owners. Well played indeed.