NEW YORK -- With the contentious battle between the NHL and players' association now headed to the courts, the NHLPA will be taking the next step toward dissolving the union.
Multiple sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the entire NHLPA membership will begin voting Sunday on whether to authorize the executive board the discretion to file a disclaimer of interest.
The voting, open to all 700-plus members of the NHLPA, will be done electronically over a five-day period. Should it pass -- a 2/3 majority vote is needed -- the NHLPA executive board has until Jan. 2, 2013 to file a disclaimer of interest.
A disclaimer of interest is a quicker, less formal way of decertifying the union, the latter of which can take months to process. By disbanding the NHLPA, the players would be able to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league in court, although they would also lose their rights to collectively bargain as a union and all the protection the union offers.
The latest development comes on the heels of the NHL's announcement Friday that the league filed both a class action complaint in New York Federal Court to uphold the lockout and an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
The NHL's complaint with the NLRB categorizes the NHLPA's threat to disclaim interest as a negotiating "ploy" and a "subversion" of the collective bargaining procedure.
The NHLPA said the league's position was "completely without merit," in a statement Friday evening.
It is unclear if the two sides will have any communication until the results of the NHLPA vote are known.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com via email that he had not had contact with the union since Friday. He also sounded unsure of what will happen next.
"Don't know what next step is," he said. "Time will tell."
The lockout, now on day 91, has seen all games through Dec. 30 canceled.