by PuckStopsHere on 11/04/08 at 06:18 PM ET
One of the NHL’s victories in the 2005 lockout was the breaking of the NHLPA. Bob Goodenow, who had been a tough adversary for the NHL, was replaced as NHLPA head by Ted Saskin, who was much easier for the NHL to keep in place. Saskin’s NHLPA had little purpose for the players. He spent much of his effort trying to maintain power and was ousted because he eavesdropped on player’s email to do this.
The Paul Kelly NHLPA is making an effort to be relevant to the players and is willing to fight for their causes and be more proactive with their positions. They are holding a secret ballot vote about whether or not the current CBA should be renewed (since the players can opt out this summer) and have been on record about potential franchise re-locations.
Their first battle of the season is over the defected player status of European players.
In previous CBAs, drafted players who are in Europe and do not sign were called “defected players”. This did not mean that they actually defected. It is a poorly chosen name. Teams would hold the rights of defected players for many years after their draft. This was an issue this summer with Jonas Frogren who had been drafted in the previous CBA.
Teams that draft players in North America hold their rights for two years (or two years after they finish college if the play in college) and if they do not sign them, the players can either re-enter the draft or become free agents. In order to equalize this situation with European leagues, teams would now hold player rights for two years under the current CBA. However, the player transfer agreement with Europe ended and that made it harder for teams to obtain the players they drafted who were in Europe. The NHL has claimed that it was intended when the CBA was negotiated that the defected player rules would stand in the case of no transfer agreement. Nothing is written in the CBA to back up this opinion, but it is claimed to be a verbal agreement. Ted Saskin showed his NHL ties by testifying for the NHL and against the NHLPA on this issue. This called into question how autonomous the NHLPA was in the days of Saskin’s leadership.
The NHLPA lost their grievance on this case and has filed suit with the US Labor Relations Board.
This is a relatively minor case, but the NHLPA is drawing a line in the sand and saying that they will not let the NHL walk all over them. I expect further challenges between the NHLPA and the NHL.
Here is the Larry Brooks article on this case.
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