Last Sunday night, the NHLPA made an effort to complicate the owners' march towards a labour stoppage by seeking an injunction against locking out the Montreal Canadiens in particular. Their argument: you can't lock out the players' union in Quebec, because the NHLPA isn't a union in Quebec. Suck on that.
It wasn't an injunction that would save the season, but had it been accepted, it could have fractured the owners' united front. After all, it would have been a lot harder for the owners to have a united front during a long labour stoppage when one of the owners was still paying salaries.
Unfortunately, it didn't go through. The Quebec Labour Board rejected the injunction outright, making the lockout legal across the continent.
This necessitated the snarkiest, smuggest, gloatiest statement imaginable from deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
"We are pleased but not surprised with the Quebec Labour Board's ruling tonight that any lockout of Players will be effective on a League-wide basis, including in Quebec, and we are extremely appreciative of the expeditious and decisive manner in which the matter was handled. We are hopeful that this ruling will cause the Players' Association to cease pursuing these needless distractions and instead focus all of its efforts and energies on making progress at the bargaining table."
I'll tell you what should really be illegal: sass like that.
Mind you, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Daly was dismissive and smug in victory. He was dismissive and smug before too. "This is a joke," he told the Canadian Press on Monday.
But hold up a second. The NHLPA's statement also begins "we are pleased".
"We are pleased with the ruling that the Commission released tonight. While the Commission denied the players' request for emergency relief, it also rejected the NHL's request to dismiss the case. The ruling acknowledges that the players have raised issues about the legality of the NHL's planned lockout that require a full hearing on the merits.
We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec Labour Code and look forward to presenting our case to the Commission in the near future. Should the NHL carry out its threat to lock out the players in Quebec, it will do so at its own risk."
Okay, if you wanted any more proof that these two sides are nowhere near a deal: they can't even agree on what the Labour Board ruling meant.
As ominous as the PA's statement sounds, it looks like there isn't much left here. Yes, the Labour Board is open to the possibility of a hearing down the road and there are some legal issues, but clearly it isn't anything that's gotten them worked up, or they'd be working to set a date for this hearing. And, with the lockout slated to drop in a little over 24 hours, it's clearly not going to delay the work stoppage or expedite negotiations that will put an end to it in any way.
As much as I hate to side with Bill Daly after a statement so catty he deserves to be sprayed with a water bottle, I think he's right. The NHLPA should be focused on getting a deal done, and this subplot doesn't look like it will help.
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