NHL players vote to start process of dissolving union

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talks with reporters after NHL labor talks in Toronto, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (AP)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talks with reporters after NHL labor talks in Toronto, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (AP)
Photo by AP
| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 2:58 p.m.

NHL players took a significant step toward dissolving their union Friday.

Multiple sources confirmed that the Players' Association has voted to give the union's executive board a “disclaimer of interest,” authorizing board members to disband the union.

During its labor dispute last season, NBA players used a similar tactic — the threat pushed along negotiations before disposal of the union was necessary — and soon resolved their differences with the league.

Dissolving the NHLPA threatens to alter the structure of the league, which players hope will increase the urgency on the league's part to negotiate.

Should the NHLPA disband, players would be legally permitted to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

“They made their offer,” Penguins union representative Craig Adams said.

“They aren't willing to negotiate. We're not going to accept it.”

NHL players were given five days to vote. Two-thirds of the 700 players were needed to authorize a “disclaimer of interest.”

Many of the Penguins working out at Southpointe this week predicted the vote would go in this direction.

Anything less would display a weakness in the union, something players have been eager to avoid.

The executive board has until Jan. 2 to make a decision on the union's future, though it remains unclear what and when is next.

Friday represented Day 97 of the lockout, and the 2012-13 regular season is in jeopardy of being canceled.

The NHL canceled the 2004-05 season because of a lockout, and although that campaign wasn't officially halted until February, the league won't wait that long this time.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly have said if an agreement isn't reached in time for the season to begin in mid-January, there will be no season.

Teams would need about 10 days to prepare of a season, which means a deal must be reached by the first week of January.

Many Penguins have grown concerned that the league will struggle to recover following backlash from fans.

“I certainly hope we play this season, and I hope all the fans here in Pittsburgh still come back and support us,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said.

“NHL fans are a special breed, and they deserve better than this.”

No negotiations are scheduled. Recent meetings between the sides with mediators have been fruitless.

Games are canceled through Jan. 14.

The league did not offer a response regarding the player vote.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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