NHL Lockout 2012: Dissolving Player Union Key to Salvaging Season

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 22, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04:  (L-R) Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the National Hockey League and Steve Fehr of the NHL Players Association address the media following negotiations at the Westin Times Square Hotel on December 4, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

More litigation and legalese doesn't sound like the solution to the 2012-13 NHL lockout. But the dissolving of the players' union may be just the leverage their side needs to force a new collective bargaining agreement to manifest in time to salvage this season.

Games have already been cancelled through Jan. 14 (h/t USA TODAY), which gives the league and the players a minimal amount of additional time to reach a resolution.

Ira Podell of the Associated Press reports that the players agreed to dissolve the union and file a disclaimer interest in a lopsided fashion:

In a vote this week, union members decisively agreed to give the players’ association’s board the power to file a “disclaimer of interest” until Jan. 2. A person familiar with the outcome of the vote told the Associated Press on Friday that the measure was approved by a vote of 706-22 (97 percent), easily reaching the two-thirds majority required.

As is also pointed out in Podell's article, the NBA took the same extreme measures during their lockout the previous year, and the dispute ended just two weeks later. The NHL season, if an agreement is reached relatively soon, could still be a 48-game slate.

But the lack of preparation many of the players have had in terms of team chemistry, ice time and training would likely dilute the overall product and hurt the popularity of the sport even more in the process.

Speaking of which, a report by The Globe and Mail refers to a survey by a company called Level5, which specializes in assessing company brands.

The data displays disastrous damage done to the NHL product in light of the lockout's events. Both sides are partially to blame, but the players—typically used to receiving 57 percent of hockey-related revenue—have come all the way down to a 50-50 split.

Unfortunately, that hasn't been enough to strike a deal, and a cessation in negotiations has been in place since December 6.

After the league filed a class-action suit against the union (h/t NHL.com), dissolving was the logical option for the players. But their vote to dissolve is being called into question by the NHL as an act of bad faith in negotiations under the National Labor Relations Act.

If you'd ask the fans, both sides aren't necessarily acting in good "faith"; they are simply scrounging for any way to get a deal done.

As is the case in many situations, there are more than two sides. This lockout is not only hurting the owners, players and fans, but it's also hurting the other employees in the NHL. Denver Post Colorado Avalanche writer Adrian Dater offered perspective in that regard early Saturday morning:

I'm newly ticked off about the NHL lockout because I talked with an NHL team employee tonight (not Avs) who can't afford Xmas presents now

— adater (@adater) December 22, 2012

The players don't want to be taken to New York Federal Court, and sports law shouldn't get to that high of a point in the judiciary system in this country.

Something has to give. Otherwise, hockey will continue to diminish in importance in the public eye, and the NHL's brand will continue to suffer.

The potential dissolving of the union was the best move available for the players—the exceptional athletes that actually drive the NHL product—and it will hopefully key a long-awaited agreement to get back onto the ice.

NHL and owners, your move.