NHL Lockout: Union Must Decertify in Face of Stalled CBA Negotiations

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2012

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 14: A fan holds up a 'Please end the lockout' sign while wearing a Boston Bruins jersey during the game between the Boston Celtics and the Utah Jazz on November 14, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Let's just end the charade, shall we?

It's becoming obvious as the CBA negotiations carry on between the NHL owners and players' union that a lost season is close to inevitability. The owners don't seem inclined to budge, knowing they have the negotiating tactic of canceling the season in their back pocket.

Meanwhile, many of the players have already headed overseas to financially protect against that possibility, and the union is surely growing wary of the owners' significant demands.

So it's time for the union to stop playing games and pull out its last major tactic—decertification. And according to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail, that might just be what they do:

The moderates on the player side have had their say. Now the more militant members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association could get their chance to weigh in.

And the word players talk about more and more is decertification.

“Blow it up,” one wrote in a text message on Wednesday.

Decertifying the union has until now been considered an extreme option by players, but it has been one that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has informed them about in recent days.

Until now, the players have preferred negotiating, but the two sides still remain far apart. If the union were to decertify—essentially disbanding it as a negotiating organization—Mirtle notes that "the lockout would either end or have its legality challenged in an antitrust lawsuit."

Both the NFL and NBA utilized decertification as a negotiating tactic, and each league saved its season. It's time for the NHL players to consider doing the same. If nothing else, the messiness of the legal proceedings that could stem from an antitrust case could be enough to get the owners to budge on some of their demands.

Now, if the two sides can come much closer together when talks resume—or the owners present a reasonable counter-offer to the last proposal made by the players—decertification can be avoided. It's obviously not a tactic the NHL players are eager to employ, but even as a threat it's valuable for the players.

But it might be the one dramatic move that could actually end this lockout rather quickly and save the NHL season. And if that's the case, I'm not sure many NHL fans would begrudge the players for making that move.

Because at the end of the day, we all want hockey back. Whether you fall on the side of the owners or players in this dispute, we all want to see an NHL season this year. That much everyone can agree on.

If it takes decertification, so be it. 

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