NHL players voting on disclaimer amid ongoing labour talks
Published Thursday, January 3, 2013 8:06AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 3, 2013 7:06PM EST
NHL players began voting Thursday to restore their executive board’s authority to dissolve the union after letting their self-imposed deadline to declare a “disclaimer of interest” pass.
According to a Canadian Press source, the vote is being conducted over a 48-hour period.
If the vote passes, the NHL Players’ Association can bring the disclaimer of interest forward once again and pave the way for players to file anti-trust lawsuits.
The NHLPA also filed a statement of defence with the district court in New York, arguing that the NHL launched a lawsuit against the union last month for “strategic reasons.”
The league had filed a suit seeking to establish the legality of its lockout. It also filed an unfair labour practice charge with the National Labour Relations Board, accusing the NHLPA of bargaining in bad faith.
All this is taking place amid ongoing talks between the league and the union in New York City.
Steve Fehr, special counsel for the NHLPA arrived at the league's office, along with a handful of union staff and players just before 1 p.m. ET.
Earlier Thursday, the NHLPA said it was spending the morning updating players about the ongoing negotiations. Only days remain before the deadline to sign a deal and salvage a shortened hockey season is reached.
Recent days have seen some progress, with both sides at the bargaining table since a new offer was put forward by the NHL last Thursday.
That led to discussions and information sessions over the weekend to explain the intricacies of the latest offer to players. The players then put forward a counter proposal on Monday, which led to a revised proposal from the owners on Tuesday night.
"They did make a comprehensive response to what we gave them," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said this week. "We asked a couple of questions. Now what we have to do is go through the document, try to make some sense out of it, compare it and see what the appropriate thing is to do next."
Both sides continued meeting and talking right up until 1 a.m. Thursday morning, suggesting a deal may finally be within reach 110 days into the lockout.
In an encouraging sign, several players who have been in Europe during the labour dispute were returning to North America this week.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said games must begin by Jan. 19, with players headed to training camp by Jan. 11, in order to squeeze in a 48-game season -- the minimum that would be considered profitable to the league.
Both Bettman and Fehr have said little publicly about the state of negotiations, and few details have been leaked about the different proposals.
In December, talks collapsed after Fehr told the media discussions were going well and he was hopeful a deal was in the offing. He then came back moments later and said the NHL had rejected everything the players had offered.