NHLPA reportedly threatened to decertify some agents

Updated: April 1, 2005, 10:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NHL is poised to file a second complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the players' association on Friday, claiming the union's threats to punish player agents violate the National Labor Relations Act as well as the league's now-expired collective bargaining agreement, a source told ESPN.com.

The NHL asked the NHLPA to disavow reports it is threatening to decertify agents should they represent replacement players. The NHLPA's answer on Wednesday wasn't satisfactory enough to allay the league's concerns, the source added.

The league made the request in a March 24 letter -- obtained by The Associated Press -- addressed to NHLPA lawyer Ian Pulver and signed by NHL vice president Bill Daly.

Last week, Canadian sports channel The Sports Network reported the NHLPA has indicated that any player agent would be in danger of losing their certification if they negotiated a contract for a replacement player.

The NHL has said it would explore the use of replacement players if a new deal can't be reached in time for next season. The former collective bargaining agreement expired last September and resulted in a lockout that canceled the season.

Daly's letter to the union was also distributed to player agents.

"On the assumption that these media reports are accurate, we hereby request the NHLPA to officially and expeditiously notify in writing all certified agents ... that these threats are being withdrawn ... and no certified agent will be disciplined in any way for representing a player either returning to play in the NHL, or agreeing to play as a temporary replacement player," Daly said.

Under the expired bargaining agreement, NHL teams were only allowed to negotiate with individual players or players represented by agents certified by the NHLPA. The union must provide 60 days' notice to the NHL of its intentions to change the certification process.

It's unclear whether the union can change the certification rules without a new labor agreement in place.

Last weekend, the NHL filed an unfair labor practice charge with the national board, accusing the union of violating its members' rights by asking players to repay their lockout stipend -- ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 a month -- if they choose to become replacement players.

Material from the Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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