NEW YORK -- The dreaded disclaimer of interest option for the NHLPA reared its ugly head on Thursday morning on Day 110 of the NHL lockout.
The unions executive board approved another vote from the membership on filing the disclaimer if a CBA agreement was not reached by the end of Thursdays negotiations in Manhattan.
Turns out, there were no full negotiations -- just a small group session.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported it first and sources confirmed it. The voting began Thursday night and should be completed in 48 hours. The last vote, on Dec. 21, took five days.
Union executive director Donald Fehr had the authority to use disclaimer on Wednesday night and chose not to despite a five-hour negotiating session in which some progress -- not enough -- was made.
Strategically, Fehr may have thought he made a mistake given the general unhappiness among both sides who feel neither is budging enough as the leagues drop dead Jan. 11 deadline for a new CBA looms in the distance.
Meanwhile, the union went to court to try and dismiss the NHLs previous suit against it.
The leagues complaint asked the court to declare the lockout legal and recognize that if the union filed disclaimer of interest, to have that dismissed as a sham tactic since the union has been representing the players actively all through these negotiations.
The disclaimer would dissolve the union and create a trade association, while allowing the 700-plus players to file anti-trust suits against the league.
Even if the union files for disclaimer of interest, it doesnt mean the season is over or that negotiations would not continue, even though the NHL has indicated it would not sign a waiver like the NBA did in 2010, allowing CBA talks with a disclaimer moving through the courts.
Needless to say, this move by the union could seriously stall whatever momentum and traction has been gained to this point in the discussions given the rancor demonstrated by both sides earlier.
Thursdays entire negotiating process stalled in part because the league changed the language (again) on HRR hockey-related revenue and the penalties involved for fudging on such things, after Fehr allowed the disclaimer deadline to pass on Wednesday.
The union saw that as a betrayal of trust in bargaining since it had removed the disclaimer and was plowing through talks deep into the night.
Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh is presiding over the talks.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the source said, changed the language back to where it was previously, but apparently the public relations damage was enough to keep both sides from meeting on Thursday as a full group.
Instead, a smaller group met early in the afternoon for less than two hours.
One thing seems clear here as we get to the wire. Bettman and his legal counsel, Bob Batterman from Proskauer Rose, are calling the shots and only a handful of owners are getting updates.
Some owners were not even aware as to why the union was upset after Wednesdays marathon bargaining or that it had asked for another vote on disclaimer and why it was doing so.
Both sides feel they are close to a deal, yet neither seems willing to bend any more on certain key issues.
Salary cap in 2013-14
Term limits on player contracts
The funding of player pensions remains vital to the players and an obstacle to the finish line for the owners, according to a source.
Its all about who assumes liability and which side makes up the difference in pension monies if the league revenues arent adequate enough. In the last CBA, teams funded 34 of the pension.
The league has agreed to a 70.2 million salary cap for a shortened season beginning Jan. 19, but for next season the league wants the cap reduced to 60 million.
The union wants 65 million for next year. The league says that would raise the cap floor to 49 million, which some small-market owners cant afford.
The league has moved on term limits to six years for players (seven to re-sign), while the union doesnt want any restrictions on length of contracts.
Several news agencies also reported the NHL agreed Thursday to give clubs two contract buyouts instead of one for 2013-14, but remains committed to having the salaries count against the players' share of revenue, though not against the salary cap.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org.