Ilya Kovalchuk's arbitration hearing reportedly set for Wednesday
The attorney who will handle this week's arbitration hearing in the contract dispute involving the NHL and high-scoring New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk is Richard Bloch, according to a report published over the weekend by Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record.
The report, which was also posted on NHL.com, said the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
As every Kings fan knows, Kovalchuk was furiously pursued by L.A. but ultimately signed with the New Jersey Devils. But the Devils' contract was, well, a devilish one: $102 million over 17 years, with $95 million of that paid out over the first 10 years. The Russian star would be 44 years old and still receiving a salary, albeit the league minimum.
The NHL rejected it, ruling it to be a clear circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement and its salary cap. The NHL players' union filed a grievance on Kovalchuk's behalf.
If the arbitrator rules in favor of the NHL, then Kovalchuk will immediately return to unrestricted free agent status. And the Kings, in need of a consistent scorer, have indicated they would renew their pursuit.
Bloch is no stranger to high-profile arbitration cases. Another Bloch case involved NFL star Terrell Owens in 2005.
The Philadelphia Eagles had suspended Owens in November of that year after he again criticized quarterback Donovan McNabb, called the organization "classless" and fought with former teammate Hugh Douglas. The Eagles a few days later told Owens not to return. The NFL Players Assn. filed a grievance, calling the punishment excessive; Owens wanted to be reinstated or released outright so that he could sign with another team.
But after 13 hours of testimony, Bloch ruled in favor of the Eagles, saying the team was justified in suspending the mercurial all-pro receiver for conduct proven to be a "destructive and continuing threat." He also ruled that the Eagles had the right to deactivate Owens for the rest of the year.
The decision had infuriated then-NFLPA chief Gene Upshaw. "One thing I can control is that he will no longer be an arbitrator in any more of our cases," Upshaw said at the time. "Under the CBA [collective bargaining agreement], either side has a right between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10 to dismiss an arbitrator and we are going to dismiss this one."
Bloch has had his share of NHL cases too. Among them, a case in which he awarded center Scott Gomez a $5-million dollar contract for the 2006-2007 season.
-- Debbie Goffa
Photo: Ilya Kovalchuk smiles during a news conference announcing the signing of his long-term contract with the Devils on July 20. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters