Another day, another flicker of hope for a break in the logjam in the National Hockey League’s labour dispute.
Instead of squaring off at Quebec’s labour relations board on Thursday and Friday, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association plan to concentrate on negotiations.
The Commission des relations du travail agreed to postpone the hearing about the legality of the NHL lockout in Quebec at the request of the parties.
The Players’ Association, the NHL and Canadiens jointly asked the judge to postpone it so that the league and players’ association could focus on bargaining, the NHLPA said.
The news came Wednesday as players and a select group of team owners resumed talks in New York. The two sides met for about eight hours on Tuesday, which was cautiously viewed as a sign of progress in resolving the dispute.
They met again briefly on Wednesday morning before the league’s Board of Governors meeting and are now back in talks again.
The lockout has sparked the cancellation of 422 games from Oct. 11 through Dec. 14. The outdoor Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Leafs on Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor, Michigan has been scrapped along with the All-Star game planned for Jan. 27 in Columbus, Ohio.
The NHLPA and 16 Canadiens players filed an application with the Commission des relations du travail a few days before their collective bargaining agreement expired on Sept. 15.
They sought a provisional order to prevent the NHL and Canadiens from authorizing a lockout against the team’s players. They also asked the board to declare that any lockout imposed on the team’s players would be a violation of Quebec’s labour code and to order them not to give the green light to such action.
Judge Andrée St-Georges rejected the request for a provisional order but said the two sides would be called to a hearing on the merits of the question. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week.
The NHLPA also challenged the legality of the NHL lockout in Alberta but the province’s labour board dismissed the application in October. The NHLPA has appealed the decision.
“Those maneuvers are all simply to try and create pressures and get leverage in the negotiation,” contends Richard McLaren, a law professor at Western University who is a listed arbitrator for the NHLPA for disputes between players and agents.
“They’re not of themselves going to result in any breakthroughs or major impacts, McLaren said earlier this week.
The hearing at Quebec’s labour relations board could still resume at a later date unless they are able to reach a deal, the NHLPA said.