It was probably inevitable that the NHL labor negotiations were going to hit one more pothole during the slow crawl to the deadline.
The NHL and NHLPA broke off talks Thursday after meeting for only 45 minutes. The players then prepared to once again undertake a vote to give their Executive Board permission to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union. The NHLPA had taken this action last month, but the deadline to file passed last night.
The union, in the midst of a long bargaining session with the owners, chose at the time to let the deadline pass. Theres a belief the NHL returned to its previous take-it-or-leave-it negotiating attitude after the deadline expired.
According to a source with knowledge of the process, the players would be able to re-vote on a disclaimer of interest quickly and could have it completed in one day, rather than the five days it took last time around.
The NHLPA also filed a motion in New York federal court on Thursday to dismiss the NHLs suit challenging their efforts to dissolve the union.
Heres the statement from the Judge Paul A. Engelmayer on the case: "The parties are directed to meet and confer on these subjects before Monday January 7 that is constructive, one that may enhance, and does not needlessly inhibit, the parties' ability to resolve their disputes with dispatch."
It all looks ugly on the outside, of course, as the lockout passed Day No. 110 on Thursday and continues to be a permanent stain of embarrassment, greed, selfishness and ego on the NHL brand. But all of that comes with the NHL and NHLPA knowing full well that they have until Jan. 11 to continue positioning themselves for the best deal possible.
More and more NHL employees are being notified that the season is expected to begin Jan. 19, consisting of a shortened 48-game schedule against conference opponents seven games against division rivals and two games apiece against every other team in the conference. It could also include an AHL-style schedule where the Bruins could play Friday and Saturday games against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre a scenario across the league that could produce some interesting results.
Many around the NHLPA believe the threat of a disclaimer of interest is exactly the kind of leverage needed to finally force a palatable CBA that both groups can live with. It forced the NHL to come up with a comprehensive 300-page offer for the first time last week, and it should once again push the owners toward the negotiating table with the players.
Its a place they should have been from the very beginning, and were this week before Thursdays dip into unsavory waters.