Decertification is usually a last resort for player unions in their lockout battles with league owners, but for the NHLPA, they might not have a choice in the near future if federal mediation cannot help the NHL and its players negotiate a new CBA.
With federal mediators being brought into CBA talks this week, there is some hope that progress can be made.
If mediation fails and the NHL continues to maintain its current position on the important labor issues, the NHLPA should decertify.
Negotiations can continue while any decertification process is ongoing, but if the NHLPA doesn't believe that the league will ever budge on its demands, why continue to negotiate?
At that point, the union won't have many options left in its attempt to reach a CBA that is more beneficial than the previous one.
By waiting until the final days before the season is going to be canceled, the union would be hoping that the owners' resolve would weaken. But what if they didn't and the players had to cave more? Then the NHLPA would be in a tough situation.
The NHL should be scared of the NHLPA decertifying because it's unlikely that a third party would help the league get the CBA it wants.
Without any major concessions from the league in negotiations thus far, it's hard to imagine a judge helping the league accomplish its mission of dominating another round of labor talks.
The side that hasn't been a good negotiating partner, which is the NHL in this case, probably won't want to take its labor dispute to the courtroom. A favorable outcome would not be probable.
Does the NHL want to dig in its heels and prepare for a numbers of lawsuits and court battles with the NHLPA that if the league lost, it could possibly end up owing the players many millions of dollars? I don't think so.
Going to court, which would take a long time, could also result in the loss of the salary cap and other parts of the previous CBA that the owners lost an entire season in 2004-05 to get.
There are risks for the players by going to court and potentially losing a number of cases, but the risks are greater on the owners' side because they have a more favorable situation than any other North American sports league's owners.
If a new CBA cannot be reached over the next two weeks with the assistance of federal mediators, the NHLPA must begin to decertify, which could scare the league into making an agreement.
Unfortunately, this strategy might be the only way to get the NHL to strongly consider making anymore concessions to the players during bargaining sessions.