NHL Lockout: How Effective of a Strategy Is Decertification for NHLPA?

Nicholas GossCorrespondent INovember 25, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One option the NHLPA can use to create some better negotiations with the NHL during this lockout is to decertify as a union, but how effective of a strategy would this be?

According to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com, the players have talked about decertifying.

player source from the Fehr meeting on decertification discussion: "it is a serious consideration right now."

— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) November 25, 2012

In a recent interview with Sportsnet 590 The Fan, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly talked about decertification (via Adrian Dater of the Denver Post):

Asked if he is afraid of NHL players decertifying, Bill Daly tells 590 Toronto: "No." Implies law precedents on nhl's side

— adater (@adater) November 23, 2012

Decertifying is a complicated and lengthy process that can be a good method to end a lockout, but the NHLPA has a number of things to consider before deciding to take a drastic step such as decertification.

When the NBPA decertified during the NBA lockout last November, a tentative CBA was reached less than two weeks later. Could we see a similar outcome if the NHLPA takes this route?

Even if the union decertifies and files anti-trust suits, there's no guarantee that they would be successful. If they weren't successful, then lots of valuable time would have been lost for nothing. That's not a risk the players should take at this stage in the process.

When you look at how far the two sides have come on the important issues, decertifying isn't really the best option for the players right now. There's no reason to decertify when the gap separating the league and its players on key issues isn't massive.

If both parties were still miles apart and weren't accomplishing anything by talking (or not talking at all), then decertifying would be an option to strongly consider.

The threat of decertification would be a more effective tactic right now for the NHLPA. The league may not want to enter the many legal battles that the decertification of the players' union would create, and it could fear that the NHLPA would win a few of those legal battles. However, past decisions in court favor the NHL a bit more than the NHLPA.

The players would be smart to schedule more CBA talks with the NHL rather than risk losing an entire year's salary by decertifying and putting the season in jeopardy. The NHLPA cannot use the NBPA's decertifying as an example because the NBA lockout and NHL lockout have some distinct differences.

The time wasted decertifying and filing anti-trust lawsuits could be used to actually negotiate with the NHL.

The players could decertify and end up with a much more favorable CBA than they would have agreed to if they didn't decertify and continued to negotiate with the league. However, the chances of this happening are not great, and the possible outcomes also include getting an even worse CBA.

Decertifying would have been an effective tactic months ago, or when the lockout started on September 15, but with 422 games through December 14 cancelled, time is not on the NHLPA's side.

If the players want to play in 2012-13, they should not decertify, but if getting a favorable CBA is their top priority, even at the cost of an entire season, decertifying then becomes an option. Decertifying could place the season on life support.

The best course of action for the union is to continue to negotiate and hope that the owners show a similar desire to end the lockout when the fate of the 2012-13 season has to be decided.

At this point in the process, decertification would not be an effective strategy for the NHLPA.