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Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

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Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

"Decertification" become a buzzword for the NHLNHLPA labor battle, and theres little wonder why: A move to bust up the players union in the NBA directly preceded an agreement during its lockout last year.

But decertification could have uncertain consequences.

The NBA Players Association decertified quickly, filed two lawsuits, and the league settled within a couple of weeks. The NFL players had to wait four months for a settlement after decertifying, but they opted for it at the beginning of negotiations rather than toward the tail end.

A move by the NHLPA to decertify could drop the league into turmoil. Stripping the NHL of its anti-trust immunity would wipe out the entry draft, blow up all the rules governing free agency, arbitration and the salary cap and create a Wild West atmosphere where players could go to the highest bidder. Understandably its an option the NHL claims would wipe out the rest of this season while throwing the league into chaos, but its also the kind of leverage point the NHLPA hasnt enjoyed during these one-sided negotiations.

The mere threat of NHL control being wrested from the 30 owners and put into the court rooms is a viable weapon in negotiations. There is much more bite to a potential union decertification than to what's gone on this week between federal mediators and the two sides.

Bruins players polled after their Monday morning voluntary skate indicated that union decertification has definitely been mentioned in discussion, but all of them were waiting to hear it explained to them more fully. Sounds like grounds for an NHLPA conference call.

Im not really educated enough on decertification to make a comment either way, said Shawn Thornton. Its an option we are aware of, but nobody has really been educated on it.

But if the specter of decertification leads the NHL to back off some of their player contract right demands or pushes them to raise the make-whole number, then its something the players will view as a positive.

"We want to play," Thornton said. "But there hasnt been one bone thrown our way by the owners to where guys would say if it went to a vote right now we could live with it. There are things that have to be addressed. If there were a couple of bones thrown in there then thered be enough moderates to voice their opinions to Don Fehr. But it hasnt been that way at all. We keep giving and they keep saying Thanks . . . what else have you guys got? Until that changes, nothing is going to change."

In essence the players are looking at potential decertification as one of the only possible ways to bring the lockout conflict to an end. That end game is what intrigues out-of-work players, or those in Europe.

"Ive tried to read a couple of articles on it and talked with my sister, who is a lawyer, about it," Gregory Campbell said. "It seems like something like its an awfully serious decision. I dont know what the ramifications would be if we went down that road. I dont know if a lot people understand what would happen if we decertified. I think everybody just wants a solution to this.

"In searching the other lockouts it looks like it might be an option. It may come to that. But I dont understand enough about it to make a statement of whether we should do it or not."

Here are the basics of decertification:

First the NHLPA would sign a petition to decertify. If at least 30 percent of the members sign, the process begins.

The petition goes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If 30 to 49 percent of the membership signed the petition, the board sets a decertification election date, usually about 60 days after approving the player membership petition.

If 50 percent or more signed, the employer may immediately withdraw recognition of the union. But the NHL would be unlikely to do so because it would allow the players to immediately begin filing antitrust lawsuits against them.

Once the labor relations board sets an election date, the union holds a decertification vote on that date. If a majority votes in favor, the union is decertified and its status changes to a trade association.

The trade association can file antitrust lawsuits against the employer and sue for damages on wages lost with triple the damages if the NHL is found to be guilty of bad bargaining practices.

It would likely take at least two months for the NHL Players Association to decertify, so the filing of antitrust lawsuits couldnt begin until the beginning of February. Even if the NHL buckled immediately, that would probably be too late to save the season. But even the submission of a qualifying petition could pose enough of a threat to push the NHL into action. Both sides can continue to negotiate while the decertification process is taking place.

Thats essentially what happened with the NBA last year, and what might be the NHLPA's only weapon to get the league back to the bargaining table.

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Former Patriot Mike Vrabel named head coach of the Tennessee Titans

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Former Patriot Mike Vrabel named head coach of the Tennessee Titans

The Titans job was rumored to be the first pick of Josh McDaniels, but as details have come to light, that is not the case.

The Tennessee Titans have agreed to hire former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel as their Head Coach tonight.

The team publicly announced the hire tonight across all of their social media platforms.

Vrabel won the Super Bowl with the Patriots three times in the early years of the New England dynasty. 

Despite having limited experience as a coach, he has attracted much attention in this past offseason for openings across the NFL. He has just one season's experience as a coordinator. 

Vrabel steps in to fill the role of Mike Mularkey, who was fired just one night after many believed he was receiving an extension. Despite the rumor of the extension, Mularkey and the Titans agreed to part ways just one day later.

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