The NHLPA has been spewing rage over the NHL's decision to allow its owners and general managers to discuss the League's latest proposal with their players over a two day period last week. It was a green light the NHL didn't inform the union that it had given.
"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings," said Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel. "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."
Yahoo! Sports has acquired the NHL's memo to GMs and owners; one that specifically states what they can and cannot discuss with players in a delightfully 'cover our own asses' kind of way. From Yahoo! Sports columnist Nick Cotsonika, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said:
"Club executives were provided an opportunity to respond to Player inquiries on our most recent proposal and on the status of bargaining generally for a limited period of time. Clubs received strict and unequivocal guidelines."
Coming up, that NHL's memo …
Here is what the NHL sent to its teams last week:
We understand that some of you are being contacted by one or more of your Players and that your inability to respond substantively is creating some awkwardness in your relationships.
Accordingly, and only between now and 11:59 pm (local time) on Friday night (10/19), the NHL By-Law 17.17 prohibition will not be applied to conversations that result from you being contacted by your Players -- PROVIDED, THAT ANY SUCH CONVERSATIONS ARE STRICTLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RESTRICTIONS SET FORTH IN THIS MEMORANDUM. A failure to follow these rules can both set us back in our effort to resolve this work stoppage and cause serious legal problems and will be deemed a violation of NHL By-Law 17.17 (subject to appropriate penalties).
Therefore, please read these rules carefully and be certain that you adhere to them without exception. They have been designed in light of the fact that the NHLPA is, in fact and in law, the sole collective bargaining representative of the Players and that any effort to motivate the Players must be to have them act through their union, not instead of or in opposition to it.
As a matter of labor law you are permitted to express the views and opinions of the Club and the League concerning the proposal currently on the table.
YOU MAY NOT: "Negotiate" with a Player. This means you may not explore alternatives or variations to the proposals on the table from either side because that would be prohibited "direct dealing". You may not ask "What do you want?" or "What do the Players want?" or "What should the League propose?" If a Player tells you that he or others are trying to find a different approach, he should be told that all ideas and suggestions should be presented to the Union and not directly to you or anyone else in the League except through the Union. You may not ask him what he or others have in mind.
If he volunteers what he has in mind you should not respond positively or negatively or ask any questions but instead refer him to the NHLPA. Likewise, you may not suggest hypothetical proposals that the League might make in the future or that the League might entertain from the Union.
So no negotiations with players. The NHL puts its foot down. Wonder how effective it was, given that fracturing the union worked like a charm in 2004-05 and might be the best path to a resolution in this round …
Check out Y! Sports NHL columnist Nick Cotsonika later today for a full analysis of this memo and what it means for the lockout talks, as the NHL attempts an end-around on Don Fehr.