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NHL players looking at labor laws in Canada to block a lockout [update]

September 10, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Josh Gorges of the Canadiens speaks to reporters during a news conference last month.
Josh Gorges of the Canadiens speaks to reporters during a news conference… (Gary Nylander / Associated…)

Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges, who asserted that the NHL owners are treating a lockout as a "preferred option," said Monday that the players’ union believes such a move would violate Canadian labor laws.

To that end, there are legal maneuvers going on in two Canadian provinces, Quebec and Alberta. Last week, the National Hockey League Players Assn.  submitted a challenge at the Alberta Labor Relations Board in an attempt to prevent a lockout of the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. Additionally, the Canadiens’ players are prepared to go down that path with the Quebec labor board.

Gorges said he thought a favorable ruling would mean Montreal's players would continue to keep practicing and be able to use the team’s facilities while continuing to draw salaries.

"First and foremost, we’re not doing this so that the players in Montreal can get a salary," Gorges said on a conference call. "The reason that we are doing this is to try to put pressure on the owners side ... to get a deal done and to allow us to train and do training camp and get ready to play even if we haven’t reached an agreement."

The league deployed its Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly to meet with the Alberta Labor Relations Board, according to multiple news reports. That group is based in Edmonton, where Daly was expected to arrive later on Monday.

[Update, 4:30 p.m.: The Edmonton Journal reported that the NHL withdrew its application and Daly would not be appearing before the Alberta Labor Relations Board, according to a board spokesperson.

"I would characterize the NHLPA's legal filings in Canada to be unfortunate distractions," Daly said in an email to The Times. "We would all be better served if they were willing to get back to the table and bargain in good faith.  Apparently, they aren't prepared to do that."]

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, as the NHL inches toward yet another possible work stoppage. It would be the third lockout under the watch of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

There have been informal talks between the NHL and NHLPA in the last week but formal talks broke off on Aug. 31. That day, Bettman said the league was being "stonewalled" by the players’ association and the sides could not even agree on who decided to call a recess.

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