Source: NHLPA to vote on disclaimer of interest, would allow dissolving of union

TORONTO – The executive board of the NHL Players’ Association is seeking the power to dissolve the union — a decision that would allow it to file a class-action anti-trust lawsuit against the league.

The 30-member board has asked union membership for a vote that would give it the authority to file a “disclaimer of interest,” according to sources.

The vote is expected to be held in the coming days. Should the board be granted the right to disclaim interest it doesn’t guarantee that it would do so.

A spokesman for the NHLPA declined comment on Friday afternoon.

With collective bargaining talks between the league and union failing to produce much progress —including during two days with a U.S. federal mediator in New Jersey this week — speculation has grown that the NHLPA might choose to disband.

NBA players filed a “disclaimer of interest” while they were locked out last season, but ended up agreeing to a new CBA 12 days later. The union quickly reformed.

If the NHLPA elects to go down a similar route, executive director Donald Fehr would no longer be in charge of bargaining on behalf of the players. In fact, the players would cease being seen as a collective entity.

However, they would likely file a lawsuit seeking to have the lockout deemed illegal, something that could see them paid triple their lost salary in damages if successful.

The NHL has been prepared for the possibility.

Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman fielded a question about decertification from a reporter and indicated that the union was more likely to pursue a disclaimer of interest. He also ensured the Board of Governors was brought up to speed on the issue when it gathered Dec. 5 in New York.

“The board was completely and thoroughly briefed on the subject,” said Bettman. “And we don’t view it in the same way in terms of its impact as apparently the union may.”

The NHL is in danger of losing a second season to a labour dispute. All games through Dec. 30 have been cancelled and a new deal would need to be in place by mid-January to salvage a 48-game schedule, the minimum Bettman says needs to be played.

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