EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) - The Alberta Labor Relations Board has ruled that the NHL's lockout of players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames can continue.
The board said declaring the lockout illegal in the province wouldn't help the league and its players reach a settlement. The players had argued that the Oilers and Flames are Alberta businesses and as such, must abide by provincial labor rules.
Those rules say a mediator must have 14 days to work with both sides in a contract dispute before a lockout vote can be held. The NHL had applied for a mediator in Alberta, but informed the board after three days that it didn't believe meetings would have to be held.
Lawyers for the NHL said the league needs to operate under one set of labor laws to function.
On Wednesday, as the NHL and NHLPA continued negotiations well in to the afternoon in New York, both sides released statements on the matter.
``The players are obviously disappointed with (Wednesday's) decision. Unfortunately, the Alberta Labor Relations Board decided not to exercise its discretion to determine whether the owners' lockout violates Alberta law,'' the NHLPA said. ``We will consider our further options with regard to this case.
``In the meantime, the players want to play, the fans want to watch the game, and the many workers and business owners who are dependent on NHL hockey for their livelihood want the season to start. We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement at the earliest possible time and hope that the NHL begins to show a willingness to do so.''
The lockout began on Sept. 15.
``We are pleased with the Alberta Labor Board's ruling today that the lockout of players is effective on a league-wide basis, including in Alberta, and we are extremely appreciative of the decisive manner in which the matter was handled,'' NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
``We are hopeful that this ruling will enable both the league and the NHL Players' Association to focus all of our efforts and energies on negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement in order to get our game and our players back on the ice.''