Although there's no specific "drop-dead" date for the NHL to cancel the remainder of the regular season if there is no resolution to the lockout, deputy commissioner Bill Daly asserted Wednesday that it is "sometime in mid-January."
"We have a general sense of when we have to be playing hockey by. It's fair to say it's sometime in mid-January," Daly said in an interview on a Toronto radio station as the 94-day standoff between the league and the NHLPA continued with no talks on a new collective bargaining agreement scheduled.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that anything less than a 48-game season isn't feasible. To play 48 games, they would have to start around Jan. 20, after 7-to-10 days of training camp. Under that scenario, a deal would have to be reached by about Jan. 10, and the regular season would end in early May. After the 1994-95 lockout, a 48-game schedule began on Jan. 20.
About 700 players are voting on whether to authorize their 31-member negotiating committee to file a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union and allow individual players to file antitrust suits.
The voting began Sunday and runs until Friday, and Daly said he expected the players to vote "overwhelmingly" in favor of the plan. If the committee files, Daly said that action could "prolong any resolution" to the conflict.
"Should the players decide that they don't want to be in a union, there won't be a union, so it will be the end of that," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a separate interview with the radio station. "We'll be living in a different world. The owners will have to comply with the antitrust laws. Individual players will have whatever rights they have."