Penguins' Craig Adams gets caught in lockout's legal moves

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Four days ago, Craig Adams finally got something other than headaches and ulcers for serving as the Penguins player representative.

He got named in a lawsuit the NHL filed in federal court in Manhattan.

Adams' offense?

Being a member of the NHL Players' Association's 30-member negotiating committee, a group that has been trying for months, with no success, to work out a collective bargaining agreement with the league.

NHL officials decided to go to court to reaffirm the legality of the lockout that has shut down the league since Sept. 16, and Adams ended up being part of the paperwork.

So did the other 29 members of the negotiating committee, along with a half-dozen players who represent various classifications of players, from unsigned draft choices to unrestricted free agents.

"At first, I was [surprised to be named]," Adams said after a player-organized workout Monday at Southpointe. "Then I realized why the guys were named. I'm not worried about it."

Especially when there are more pressing concerns.

Like what impact the league's lawsuit, along with an unfair labor practice complaint it filed with the National Labor Relations Board the same day, will have on the chances of negotiating a new CBA.

And how 700-plus eligible NHLPA members will vote on the issue of whether to give the union's executive board clearance to submit a disclaimer of interest -- essentially, to proclaim its intention to cease representing its members -- if it determines that would be prudent.

Adams said he regards the league's moves, along with the ongoing NHLPA voting, as "major" developments in the lockout "in the sense that they're not decisions that are taken lightly"

Although the NHLPA is widely expected to give the executive board authority to file a disclaimer of interest -- the balloting won't end until Thursday -- Adams declined to predict how the vote will turn out.

"I'm not going to speculate on it," he said. "Everybody's free to vote the way they want to."

Negotiations are allowed to proceed, despite the NHL's legal action and labor complaint, although neither side seems particularly interested in talking at this point.

The parties apparently have not spoken since late last week, and there's no indication they plan to do so anytime soon.

Adams' exasperation with the inability to forge a new CBA has been evident in his expression at times in the past few months, although he insists, "there have been lots of times as a player when I've been just as frustrated."

Adams is, on many levels, a natural for the role he's filling these days. He's Harvard educated, analytical and well-spoken.

And, perhaps most important, seems genuinely interested in the interests of other NHLPA members.

"Part of it's that you feel a little bit of responsibility," he said. "Somebody has to do it -- or, some people have to -- and a lot of guys have, so it's been great.

"[The desire is] to help out any way you can, whether it's passing information along to other guys or trying to be there with our [NHLPA] staff, trying to make decisions and things like that."

That has meant more than a few out-of-town trips on short notice, sacrificing time with his family -- and, occasionally, workouts that prepare him in case there actually is hockey this winter -- so he could be involved in the negotiations.

"I've probably regretted it a few times when I've gone to New York and Toronto and not a lot has happened, and [had] some missed time with the family and things like that," he said.

Adams was in New Jersey last week for a second round of unproductive federal mediation, but says the futility of the trips he has made so far won't dissuade him from doing it again.

"We've all invested too much in the process to give up on it now," he said. "We're committed to finding a solution and, hopefully, we're going to find one soon.

"Or it's going to be a long time until we play hockey again."

NOTES -- A player-organized workout today at Southpointe figures to attract the most participants of any in the near future. A number of players, including Sidney Crosby, are expected to depart in the next few days to spend the holidays elsewhere. ... Winger James Neal will play in a charity game Wednesday night in Toronto.

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter: @MolinariPG.


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