NHL contends union threatening agents

Updated: April 4, 2005, 6:39 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The NHL filed two complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, accusing the league's players' association of threatening to decertify agents that represent replacement players.

The complaints, filed in New York City, came the same day the two sides were scheduled to meet at an undisclosed location in an attempt to spur talks to resolve a lockout that canceled the season.

In a two-page submission, the NHL accused the union of violating two sections of the National Labor Relations Act by continuing to threaten agents with punishment. The NHL has a stake in keeping the agents certified because it said it would explore the use of replacement players if a new collective bargaining agreement can't be reached in time for next season.

"This conduct constitutes an unlawful boycott, by pressuring neutral persons (the agents) to cease doing business with the primary employer involved in a labor dispute," read one complaint submitted by L. Robert Batterman, a league lawyer.

In the second complaint, the NHL argues that the union's conduct is unlawful because it's barred from unilaterally changing its agent certification rules.

Under the expired collective 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.

NHL spokesman Frank Brown had no comment other than to confirm that the complaints had been filed.

The NHLPA did not respond to a message left by The Associated Press.

The complaints came after the NHL twice in the last two weeks requested the players' association to disavow reports that it had threatened agents. The NHLPA responded to the league's initial request by saying it had no intention at this time to change the agent certification rules.

The NHL, in a letter obtained by the AP, termed that response insufficient and asked the union to provide written confirmation that it would not punish agents.

These are the latest complaints the NHL has made to the national board. Last month, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge, 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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press