The standoff continues for the NHL and NHL Players’ Association.
Another day passed without communication between the sides, who have no plans to return to the bargaining table and appear to be digging in. Both say they are prepared to meet but neither seems willing to make the first move.
“We’ve always been willing and ready to bargain,” NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr told The Canadian Press on Monday night. “It seems like the league has … paused or cut the process off several times over the last few months. I don’t know that we ever have.
“We’re ready to meet whenever they’re ready to meet.”
According to Fehr, he and deputy commissioner Bill Daly last communicated with one another via email on Friday night. Daly indicated that there had been no miscommunication between the parties.
“They know where we are and we know where they are,” he said. “We are still a long way apart. I’m sure if either one of us has a new idea for moving the process forward, we know how to get in touch.”
Fehr was unwilling to discuss the possibility of the NHLPA filing for a “disclaimer of interest”—”I’m not talking about private internal union matters,” he said—something that could happen as soon as the end of the week depending on how a vote of the membership goes.
Players began casting electronic ballots Sunday on whether they would give their executive board the authority to dissolve the union, which would allow them to challenge the legality of the lockout in court and file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. Two-thirds of union members must vote in favour by Thursday.
It comes just days after the NHL filed a class-action complaint which asked a federal court in New York to make a declaration on the legality of the lockout. In the 43-page complaint, the NHL argued that the NHLPA was only using the “disclaimer of interest” as a bargaining tactic designed to “extract more favourable terms and conditions of employment.”
The league also filed an unfair labour practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday.
The NHL and NHLPA spent two days with a U.S. federal mediator last week in New Jersey but didn’t report any progress. However, the union continues to believe the gap between the two sides isn’t insurmountable.
“At times, we felt we were very close and had momentum towards a deal but something always seemed to happen to derail it,” said Fehr. “Clearly we seemed to be making progress and were close the week of Dec. 4-6 in New York. As (executive director) Don (Fehr) has said, in some ways we’re very, very close.
“It seems unfortunate that we get stuck in the mud and can’t seem to move forward and finish it off.”
The lockout is into its 14th week and has already resulted in the cancellation of 526 regular-season games through Dec. 30. It’s only a matter of time before more games are wiped off the schedule.
Exactly when the sides will meet again remains up in the air.
“I guess we’re just waiting for talks to resume,” said Fehr. “Hopefully, it will happen very soon.”