The NHL’s lawsuit against its players was assigned to a relatively new federal judge who is a longtime New York Yankees fan and a former federal prosecutor.
The sides didn’t talk Sunday, the 92d day of a lockout that is threatening to wipe out an entire NHL season for the second time in nine years. NHL players started voting on whether to have their union give up collective bargaining rights, a ‘‘disclaimer of interest’’ that could be a precursor to an antitrust suit.
The league argued in a 43-page suit Friday in federal court in Manhattan that the union’s actions were a bargaining maneuver and asked that the lockout be declared legal. The case was assigned to US District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who joined the bench in July 2011.
The 51-year-old is a graduate of Horace Mann School, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School.
He spent a year between college and graduate school as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he had two stints in the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, rising to chief of the major crimes unit. He also worked in the Solicitor General’s office in Washington, D.C.
By filing the class-action complaint in New York, the league guaranteed that the legality of the lockout would be decided in a court known to be sympathetic toward management. If the NHLPA dissolves it will seek to have the lockout deemed illegal — something that could result in players being paid triple their lost salary in damages if successful.
Despite the focus of the lockout shifting from the board room to the courtroom, there is nothing preventing the sides from continuing to try to negotiate with each another. They met separately over two days with a US federal mediator last week in New Jersey but failed to make any progress. No further talks have been scheduled.