TORONTO -- The conflict between the NHL and the players' association has reached a new level.
The league filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this week regarding the subject of replacement players.
Should no new collective bargaining agreement be reached between the sides, the NHL could choose to begin the 2005-06 season with replacement players. But according to reports, the union told its members any player electing to compete during the labor dispute would have to give back to the NHLPA all benefits the player had received during the current work stoppage.
Union members currently receive between $5,000 and $10,000 per month during the lockout.
"The practice of conditioning the receipt of work stoppage benefits on a player's agreement not to return to the NHL without a new CBA was coercive, and in violation of the player's rights under the labor laws," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said.
The league reportedly informed its clubs of its decision to file the grievance Friday, while the union informed SportsTicker of the existence of the complaint via e-mail.
"The NHLPA confirms that the NHL has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board," an NHLPA spokesperson said in a statement. "The NHLPA will have no further comment while the matter is reviewed by the NLRB other than to say we are confident the NHL's actions and allegations are without merit."
Citing a player agent, TSN of Canada is reporting the NHL is considering filing another complaint against the union in reference to the representation of replacement players.
The union has reportedly told agents they would be in danger of losing their NHLPA certification should they elect to represent a replacement player. The league believes such an act would also be an unfair labor practice and is ready to file another complaint with the NLRB.
On Thursday, the league officially canceled the 2005 draft, which was slated to take place in Ottawa in June. Commissioner Gary Bettman wiped out the 2004-05 campaign on Feb. 16, making the NHL the first major North American sports league to have an entire season cancelled due to a labor dispute.