Locked out National Hockey League (NHL) players will begin voting on Sunday on whether to give the players association's executive board authority to file a "disclaimer of interest" and dissolve their union.
Voting will be done electronically and continue through Thursday, a source familiar with the proceedings told Reuters on Saturday.
A two-thirds majority will be needed to give the 30-member executive board the power to file a "disclaimer of interest" that would disband the union and free players to file anti-trust suits with the courts.
The NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) has not yet said it plans to file the disclaimer but could go that route if negotiations remained stalled.
The league moved to prevent the NHLPA from decertifying on Friday, filing a class action complaint against the players' union.
The NHL asked U.S. courts to confirm the legality of the lockout and simultaneously filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) players pursued similar courses in 2011 labor disputes with their leagues before new collective bargaining agreements were eventually reached.
The legal maneuvering follows two unsuccessful days of bargaining with U.S. federal mediators trying to jump start stalled talks on a new collective bargaining agreement.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said he cannot see the league, which normally runs an 82-game regular season, playing less than a 48-game campaign. But with games through December, 42.8 percent of the schedule, already canceled, time is quickly running out for salvaging even a partial season.
The two sides appear to have inched closer on the main sticking point of how to divide $3.3 billion in revenue.
The league is seeking an immediate 50-50 split while players, who will see their share chopped from 57 percent, want the cuts brought in gradually with a "make whole" provision in place to cover money that would be lost on current contracts.
Several other contentious items remain on the table, including the length of a new collective bargaining agreement, contract limits, drug testing and continued participation in the Winter Olympics. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Gene Cherry)