LOCKOUT: Day 71- Is the De(certification) bomb the A-bomb in the negotiations?


September 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHLPA executive director Don Fehr (right) flanked by Vancouver Canucks player Manny Malhotra (to his left) and Winnipeg Jets player Ron Hainsey (to his right) during a press conference at the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

These last few days, the one water cooler word for us hockey fans has been de-certification.  Fehr mentioned a couple of days ago and it has gotten a lot of buzz. Could the players’ union literally break itself up in order to end the lockout. It very likely could.  Would it end the lockout? In simplest terms, yes. It would by law force the owners to get the game going. These last few weeks have seen the NHLPA give ground in order to get the season started. (At this point, I think the best we can hope for is an abbreviated forty-eight game season.) Sadly, the owners have stuck to their guns and have been shooting down player proposals in very brief periods of time. Don Fehr used the recent holiday as an analogy to describe the owner’s intransigence.

“If it was a Thanksgiving dinner [the NHL] gave us the relish tray instead of a turkey,” offered Fehr. “We’re not going to make any more offers anytime soon, but we’re prepared to meet at any time. We moved miles, they moved inches.”

It has gotten ugly as of late. Players have taken to social media firing off all sorts of comments that have been mean spirited, bitter, and a few that were borderline criminal.  The players who have done this have all smartly apologized for their sudden attack of ‘skate-in-mouth’ disease. (Personally, I can’t blame them.)  On those outbursts, Fehr has had to remove the hat of negotiator and wear the hat of the apologist. “This is the players’ careers that they [the NHL] are messing with. They’ll never get these games back. So while it’s not something that we’re condoning, it’s also hard to keep them under wraps.”

The players are looking into the ‘nuclear’ option, and the league is most certainly not amused. The moment the players and the union mentioned de-certification, the ownership had no choice but to fire back with their own nuclear grade threat. NHL’s #2 Bill Daly quickly spelled out the most logical response to a de-certification play.

“[Attempting de-certification] is a time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season,” said Daly. “I’ve had my doubts and concerns along the way [about the players’ willingness to have a season]. “I would hope that the players want to play and want to have a season. I’m not sure that unless it’s under certain terms that the [NHLPA] leadership feels the same.”

So, now we have a nuclear deterrence scenario playing out in front of us. Both sides are pulling out the weapons of last resort. The players will force the owners to start the season to spite the owners. The owners will drag it through the courts to kill the season to spite the players.  My parents were the ‘duck-and-cover’ generation. I don’t think hunkering down with the biggest weapon armed and ready in the silo is going to fix this season.

I can’t say it strongly enough. The damage being done to this league could very likely be catastrophic and permanent. Jack Edwards was right, they just don’t get it.