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Suing NHL over the lockout is why you shouldn’t sell season tickets to lawyers

Greg Wyshynski
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The image has nothing to do with this story. But OMG is is great. (Getty)

One of my closest hockey friends is a lawyer; a Boston Bruins fan who masquerades as a Washington Capitals fan unless the B's are in D.C. His nickname is The Barrister. He's good people.

I was thinking about him the other day in the context of the ongoing NHL lockout, which has deprived us of many postgame pints at the Irish Channel: Specifically, if there was any remedy his deviously litigious mind could invent to either force a lockout settlement or make life hellish for its catalysts.

Roy MacGregor of the Globe & Mail explored that concept with "one of the country's key legal minds", who mused on this notion: The possibility of "season-ticket holders launching a class-action suit against the NHL and its 30 teams."

Hooboy, now that would be fun.

From the Globe & Mail, a glimpse at the hypothetical case:

In the case of the lawyer who demanded a full refund, he was informed he can be refunded only on a game-by-game basis, as previously scheduled games are lost to the labour dispute.

The strategy is obvious, the legal mind says. You offer season-ticket holders a small incentive to stay; you make it a bother to leave. This works to the advantage of teams as there is, daily, an increasing possibility that if a season-ticket holder leaves for the whole season, he is potentially gone for the next season as well, perhaps gone forever.

… [He said] you have to presume that the league and its teams had a strategy in place that presumed — perhaps even planned — that there would be a lockout on Sept. 15.

That, he says, raises the possibility that teams sold season tickets fully aware there would be, at best, a shortened season, and, at worst, no season at all. He would call this "false pretenses." Even if those tickets have caveats in small print regarding the possibility of lost games, he still believes a legal argument could be made.

Well, that would be worth it for the mountainous disclosure evidence, putting the Phoenix Coyotes revelations to shame. (Merry Christmas, Tyler Dellow.)

This isn't the first time the idea of lockout litigation has been floated, of course. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post argued that communities that built stadiums with public subsidies should have sued NFL teams if the 2011 lockout cost them games.

Ken Lanci, a Cleveland Browns fan, took the next step and actually filed a lawsuit claiming his "right to buy tickets through his personal seat license has been violated because of the lockout." (It wasn't exactly an airtight case.)

So there you go: The longer the NHL lockout lingers, the more The Barrister and his litigious friends should start building their cases.

Will they win? Eh, probably not, due to fine print and assumption of risk and all the other things the League's attorneys would argue.

But at the very least, they could speak a language that Gary Bettman could understand.

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