NEW YORK, March 27 -- The NHL filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that a players' association policy that would penalize members who became replacements is coercive and in violation of their rights.
The league and the union have been unable to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, and the lockout that was imposed by the NHL in September forced the cancellation of the entire hockey season.
If a new deal can't be reached in time for next season, the NHL said it would explore the use of replacement players.
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 players' association denied the charges.
"The NHLPA confirms that the NHL has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board," the union 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."