Work in Sports
Back to Ottawa
Yashin's request to overturn arbitrator denied by judge
OTTAWA (AP) -- An Ontario court judge refused Tuesday to hear Alexei Yashin's bid to overturn an arbitrator's decision which dictates he owes one more season to the Ottawa Senators.
Ontario Justice Douglas Cunningham threw out Yashin's attempt to have the ruling examined.
"We obviously think it's the right decision," said Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice-president and chief legal officer. "We're hopeful it means that Alexei Yashin will come back to play hockey for the Ottawa Senators."
In his ruling, Cunningham concluded that Yashin, as an individual, didn't have standing to bring the application for judicial review, something he said would more appropriately be done by the player's union.
Yashin's lawyers argued Boston arbitrator Lawrence Holden had overstepped his boundaries when ruling on June 28 that the star forward was not eligible to become a Group 2 restricted free agent and had to fulfill the final year of his contract at $3.6 million.
"All the arbitrator's decision does is determine that Mr. Yashin's contractual obligations have not expired and that he continues to be bound by the positive and negative terms of the standard players contract," Cunningham wrote in his judgment.
"[The player] cannot now choose not to perform the remainder of his contract while at the same time claiming entitlement to the additional benefit of free agency."
Yashin had walked away from the team after much bickering and a 1998-99 early playoff loss -- in which he contributed no points against the Buffalo Sabres. He sat out all of last season, but practiced in Switzerland and played for his native Russia at this past spring's world championships.
With the final year of Yashin's contract expired, his lawyers considered their client a Group 2 free agent by virtue of his five years in the league.
But his status remained in doubt and was further confused by Senators owner Rod Bryden's pledges to never trade the 26-year-old.
Holden's decision in June seemed to have cemented Yashin's future -- any return to the NHL would involve a return to Ottawa.
Yashin's lawyers jumped on that point.
They argued Holden's ruling prevents Yashin from playing professional hockey anywhere other than in Ottawa, effectively turning the agreement into a personal service contract, "something which the arbitrator had no jurisdiction to do."
Lawyer Fred Seller argued the ruling amounted to "nothing short of perpetual worldwide servitude."
Yashin did not appear in an Ottawa court last week although his parents did.
More conspicuous by its absence, however, was the players' association, which chose not to back Yashin's bid to try to overturn the decision.
"The concept that people have to perform under their contracts -- we think that's a helpful precedent," said Daly, who added Yashin's case was "an isolated incident.
"But by the same token we thought it was a very important concept to have established judicially."
Calls to Seller were not returned.