Getting to Know the CBA - Episode 1: Preamble - Article 7

Bruce Bennett

In this series, we'll go through every part of the new NHL CBA and explore how it works, trying to simplify it down from lawyer speak, hopefully without losing too much in the translation.

Welcome to Getting to Know the CBA. I've been waiting to start this project since January when the NHL Lockout ended and both sides started playing hockey again. Unfortunately, they didn't deign fit to release the damn thing until recently.

As this series goes on, we'll take a look at each article of the CBA and attempt to make sense of it all. As it's a very long legal document, it's written to be about as interesting as a Wild/Devils game. Much of it won't have anything to do with what we as fans experience, but I think it's nevertheless worthwhile to know the document that makes the NHL work, especially as it comes to frequent misunderstandings of some rules.

Today, we'll start at the beginning. The CBA has 50 articles, 39 exhibits, and a handful of letter agreements. Some articles will get more coverage than others. We should be able to get through the first seven articles today without having our eyes roll back into our heads, so here goes.

You can find the entire CBA here (PDF)

Preamble

As with preambles, this defines what the agreement is, when it came into effect, and which parties are involved. You may notice in here that the NHL is defined as a "not-for-profit unincorporated association". There's much more to the definition than this, but the basic division is that the NHL is there to collectively bargain and to help the member clubs make profit. Think of it like a homeowner's association. They want what's best for the neighborhood and, generally, are run by power-hungry jerks.

The Preamble also clarifies that this is the only CBA to go to and that any previous CBA doesn't count.

Article I - Definitions

I'm not going to jump into all 99 definitions here. For the most part, these simply tell us what the common terms are. In the last CBA, definitions would change article-to-article. They might still here, but if there's any confusion, the definition of any term used here is right.

The vast majority of these terms basically say "see [article which deals with this concept] for the definition." We'll be coming back here a lot, but I'll try using definitions in their context for later entries so we don't have to keep jumping to the glossary to understand things later.

Article II - Recognition

The NHL recognizes the NHLPA and ONLY the NHLPA as having the right to bargain on topics on things which don't fit specifically into the CBA. Other than that, players can bargain for individual salaries and the like, as long as everything they agree on fits within the CBA's constraint.

Also, the Clubs have to give the NHLPA access to hold meetings at facilities during preseason and regular season (but not the playoffs, apparently). The GM has to clear it and can say no if it interferes with club functions, but can't say no without a good reason. The Clubs also have to grant reasonable access to their facilities for things like conditioning and training.

Article III - Duration of Agreement

The CBA retroactively goes into effect as of September 16, 2012 (the day after the previous CBA expired). This kind of "un-does" the lockout as far as things like threatened decertification and lawsuits filed are concerned.

The CBA technically expires on September 15, 2022, but will stay in effect until one side or the other says they're done with it. This is how the last CBA worked too. It had expired, but kept going year-by-year until the NHL gave the NHLPA notice that they were going to terminate it. Both sides have to give notice of termination at least 120 days prior to September 15 of any year 2022 or later for this to happen.

There's also an "Early Termination" clause that says either side can terminate the CBA effective September 15, 2020, but they have to give more notice. If the NHL chooses not to terminate the CBA by September 1st 2019, the NHLPA can do so no later than September 15. This gives both sides a full year to prepare for the next negotiation.

Article IV - Union Security and Check-Off

You don't have to be a member of the NHLPA to work in the NHL, but you have to pay a fee to the union for representing you because they do whether you like it or not.

If players want, the club will simply withhold union fees for them and pay those to the NHLPA. If too much is withheld, that's the NHLPA's problem and they're responsible for fixing it (unless the club makes an error which is obviously their fault).

Article V - Management Rights

This one's kind of interesting to me because it's basically a reverse 10th Amendment. It essentially says that if there's a part in there that the CBA specifically doesn't give the NHLPA a say in deciding, that the right to do so is withheld by the clubs or the league. It's a necessary article that essentially keeps the NHLPA from meddling in places where it's not really their business. It's also interesting to note that things such as NHLPA approval of realignment doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere in the CBA (although it's possible that such a decision would carry fallout which would require NHLPA approval on changes necessitated by such an event).

This kind of ends the lie perpetuated around the last CBA that the relationship is a "partnership" between the league and players. You could still call it that in that they're both motivated to help all the clubs make as much money possible because then everybody makes the most, but there is more of a managing partner vs. producing partner relationship here.

Article VI - NHLPA Agent Certification

The NHLPA gets to set the rules for who is and isn't a certified agent, but the league wants to know how that system works. The NHL won't negotiate deals with agents who aren't certified and the NHLPA won't make a stink about them refusing to make or honor a deal with such an uncertified person.

The NHLPA has to keep the league updated on its list of certified agents and a list of which agents represent which players. The league will keep this list secret and will abide by it when it comes time for GMs to call up agents and make deals.

Article VII - No Strike, No Discrimination, and Other Undertakings

Now that the CBA is signed, the players are expected to abide by their contracts in good faith. Neither the NHL or the NHLPA can effect a work stoppage while this CBA is active or even take part in a slowdown or any other tactic designed to disrupt the business of the NHL for the purpose of settling a labor dispute.

This means a player without a contract can hold out, but a player under contract cannot simply refuse to play until he's given an extension. If any player (or group of players) pulls this, the NHLPA is expected to help snap him/them back into line. If the entirety of the NHLPA doesn't like something in the CBA, they can't go on strike to fix it.

Furthermore, the league, the NHLPA, or any club may not interpret a part of the CBA which gives them the ability to discriminate against or for any player based on religion, race, disability, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or membership/non-membership & support/non-support of any labor organization.

Finally, a player can't negotiate with another club while he's under contract.

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There we have it, the first part. Obviously, this is kind of a high-view look at things. The actual language in each article covers much more ground, but these are the basics. If you have any questions or clarifications, let me know.

The next two articles cover the Entry Draft and Entry-Level Compensation. I'll probably combine those into one post before getting to Article 10, which covers free agency and is quite in-depth.

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