NHL contends union threatening agents


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

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

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