NHL Lockout 2012: Threat of Voided Contracts Shows How Bad Talks Have Gotten

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04:  (L-R) Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Chair Larry Tanenbaum and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman arrive for a negotiation session with the NHL Players Association at the Westin Times Square Hotel on December 4, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL has cleared the 90-day mark of its 2012 lockout, which has resulted in more complications than anticipated.

Not only are players not playing, the coaches not coaching and the arenas still closed, but negotiations between the league and the NHL players association have gotten uglier than anyone could have imagined.

ESPN's Katie Strang reported this on Saturday:

The NHL Players' Association moved one step closer to disbanding the union with a preliminary vote toward disclaiming interest.

Upon learning the NHLPA's executive board voted Thursday night potentially to dissolve the union, the NHL filed a class-action complaint in federal court as well as a Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

That was followed by an even more shocking report from Toronto Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch:

The NHL requests a declaration that, if the NHLPA's decertification or disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between the parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NHL players and NHL teams (known as Standard Player's Contracts or "SPCs") would be void and unenforceable," wrote the league.

In other words, every single NHL player would be an unrestricted free agent. Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, you name it—everyone would be available on the open market.

That's just a scary thought. If you thought things were crazy now, just wait.

If that happens, chaos will be an understatement. The loyalty of fans will be tested as their favorite players potentially sign elsewhere. The front office of every team would be tested like never before, with every possible player sitting right in front of them.

No one wants to deal with that, but it's how bad things have gotten. This is no longer just about money. Feelings have been hurt, and pride has been tested. Neither side wants to back down, leaving all other parties in the cold while they duel back and forth in mediation.

It's already difficult enough for hockey fans to stomach. This is supposed to be an exciting time of year, not a time that generates constant disappointment when you turn the channel and find that no game is on.

The NHL and the players association have already proven themselves to be nothing better than a circus.

The players association should certainly think twice about disbanding. Rather than being stubborn, the players should accept the 50-50 split and play the game that they profess to love so much.

The NHL isn't right either, but taking a drastic step such as this in retaliation doesn't make things any better. It only makes things worse, and it makes the league look worse overall.

This is the league saying "Oh yeah, look what we can do" to the players. The problem is the league will also be showing the rest of the sporting world what it's willing to do too, and it won't be pretty.