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NHL Says It Sues Players Group to Declare Lockout Legal

The National Hockey League is seeking a federal court order declaring its lockout of players is legal, the league said.

The league said in a statement yesterday on its website that it also filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

The lawsuit was filed in response to news reports that professional hockey players will be asked to vote to authorize the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s executive board to proceed to “disclaim interest” in continuing to represent the players in collective bargaining, the league said in the statement. The filing couldn’t be confirmed in electronic court records in federal court in New York.

The lockout now has caused the cancellation of 526 regular-season games, or 43 percent of the schedule. In the 1994-95 season, an NHL lockout ended Jan. 11 and a 48-game schedule began on Jan. 20. A lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.

The two sides are arguing over how to split revenue among other issues, including salary arbitration and the length of unrestricted free agency. League revenue grew to $3.3 billion last season, a 50 percent increase from $2.2 billion in 2003-04.

Under the previous agreement, players received 57 percent, or $1.9 billion, of the sales. The remaining $1.4 billion, or 43 percent, was shared among the league’s 30 team owners. The league offered a 50-50 split in its latest contract proposal.

NHL players have been locked out since Sept. 16, the day after the old contract expired.

“Based on what we’ve learned so far, the NHL appears to be arguing that players should be stopped from even considering their right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union,” Jonathan Weatherdon, a spokesman for the players association, said in an e-mail. “We believe that their position is completely without merit.”

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