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Labor lawyer on NHLPA disclaimer of interest: 'Bettman should be worried about this'

It's possible the stalled NHL talks could move from a mediator's office to a courtroom.

The executive board of the NHL Players' Association decided Thursday night to allow players to vote on whether to dissolve the union via a disclaimer of interest, TSN  reported this afternoon. If the players vote "yes," the NHLPA would walk away from its role as a representative of the players, who could then sue the league for antitrust violations.

"The consequences are you would not have collective bargaining anymore, so the owners would have potentially some antitrust exposure," Richard D. Furlong, a Buffalo labor lawyer for Lipsitz, Green, Scime and Cambria, said by phone. "The owners could not collude and basically join together to set the price of labor outside the context of collective bargaining. There are exceptions in collective bargaining that would otherwise be illegal.

"So if you’re not engaged in collective bargaining, it would put the owners in a precarious situation with respect to antitrust laws."

Commissioner Gary Bettman scoffed at the possibility of a disclaimer of interest last week.

"We don’t view it in the same way, in terms of its impact, as apparently the union may," Bettman said. "It’s not something that we focus on."

Furlong, a certified agent for Professional Lacrosse Players Association
and a former agent for the National Football League Players Association, said the league should focus on the possibility.

"I think they should be worried about it," Furlong said. "The bottom line is that this has been done before by unions within the context of collective bargaining in sports, and it has put the employers back on their heels with respect to the antitrust statutes.

"Bettman probably is and should be worried about this."

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

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Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

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Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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