The Quebec Labour Relations Board has turned down a request for a temporary injunction against a potential NHL lockout in Quebec.
But the board also ruled Friday that more hearings are needed to make a final decision on a request by 16 members of the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL Players’ Association to declare a lockout illegal in the province.
No date was set for further hearings.
With the ruling, Canadiens players will be locked out with their colleagues on the NHL’s 29 other clubs if a work stoppage goes ahead on schedule for just before midnight Saturday.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly saw the decision by the labour board as as a victory for the league.
“We are pleased but not surprised with the Quebec Labour Board’s ruling that any lockout of players will be effective on a league-wide basis, including in Quebec,” Daly said in a statement. “And we are extremely appreciative of the expeditious and decisive manner in which the matter was handled.
“We are hopeful that this ruling will cause the players’ association to cease pursuing these needless distractions and instead focus all of its efforts and energies on making progress at the bargaining table.”
The NHLPA and players from the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have also asked the Alberta Labour Relations Board to declare a lockout illegal in that province. A hearing is set for Sept. 21, the day NHL training camps were scheduled to open.
Lawyers for the players and the league stated their cases at an emergency hearing in thw Quebec case. The NHLPA asked for a quick decision so that Montreal players would not be locked out when the work stoppage begins.
NHLPA director of operations Alexandra Dagg said the aim was to prevent Canadiens, Oilers and Flames players from being locked out and to allow them to attend training camp. They also asked that players be paid while they are locked out.
While lawyers argued, NHL clubs opened their wallets to get their key players signed ahead of the impending lockout, spending a total of US$106.25 million in a single day.
Veteran unrestricted free agent Shane Doan, who reportedly considered jumping to the Vancouver Canucks, opted to stay with the Phoenix Coyotes for four years and $23.2 million. Gritty forward Alex Burrows signed a new four-year, $18 million deal with Vancouver.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen inked a five-year, $29.5 million pact with the Dallas Stars, defenceman John Carlson signed for six years at $23.8 million with the Washington Capitals and forward Gabriel Bourque signed a two-year deal worth $1.55 million with the Nashville Predators.
The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Justin Abdelkader to a four-year, $7.2 million deal and signed unrestricted free agent Carlo Calaiacovo from the St. Louis Blues on a two-year, $5 million contract.
In Montreal, labour lawyer Michael Cohen led a three-man team that presented the players’ arguments while a five-member team from the Heenan Blaikie law firm represented the Canadiens and the NHL.
The NHLPA argued because it is not certified as a union with the province, it’s members cannot be locked out under Quebec labour law. The NHL disagreed.
In Alberta, the players will argue that proper procedure wasn’t followed, including using a mediator.
No players attended the hearings in Montreal. The players listed on the decision were Peter Budaj, Colby Armstrong, David Desharnais, Brian Gionta, Andre Markov, Max Pacioretty, Brandon Prust, Yannick Weber, Rene Bourque, Erik Cole, Lars Eller, Josh Gorges, Petteri Nokelainen, Carey Price, Travis Moen and Ryan White.
Meanwhile in New York, the NHL and the union say they have been in touch but no new negotiating sessions are scheduled in advance of Saturday’s deadline.