|Cleary says the gap just isn't worth burning a season over. (Getty Images)|
On Sunday, players began voting on whether or not to authorize the NHLPA executive board to file a disclaimer of interest and thus absolve the union. The goal is to eventually file an anti-trust lawsuit against the NHL and declare the lockout illegal.
The more practical goal is to use this as leverage against the NHL. As NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has said in the past, decertification (or in this case a disclaimer of interest) could result in the season being lost, it's that big of a threat and it can spur sides to close gaps all the way to avoid litigation.
"If it's not 99.8 percent, I'd be disappointed," Cleary said on Monday (via MLive.com).
That leaves room for a couple of malcontents, perhaps guys like Roman Hamrlik, but everybody else would be on board. At that point the message would be pretty clear and the NHLPA would have until Jan. 2 to go through with the disclaimer and thus absolving itself.
Maybe Cleary's guess is a bit high, but the number isn't likely to be too far off 100 percent. Just because the players give the executive board the authorization to go through with it doesn't mean that they have to use that power -- although they most likely would. Players have gone this far, I sincerely doubt they even would step out of line now not to meet the minimum two-thirds in favor barrier. The vote seems more like a matter of formality than anything else.
All the while there is the NHL's pre-emptive lawsuit and there is certainly no guarantee that the NHL will bend to the players to avoid the legal quagmire that could await. Cleary knows that could be an issue and said he's worried about the negative potential of going through with it.
"I just hope we get back to playing," Cleary said.
"The way we look at is we've got 2 1/2 weeks of hard skating, [then] either we're playing or we're not. It's a small window."
In other words, the NHL's drop-dead date could come at the beginning of January. That much was pretty well known already, but seeing it down to a matter of just 2 1/2 weeks really serves to remind how close we are getting to the entire season truly being axed.
This certainly sounds like a lot of doom and gloom right now but it's important to remember that it's probably not as bad as it all sounds, which is some form of Hockey Armageddon. It's hard to believe, still, that we will get to that point. That doesn't mean the two sides won't be ready with all of their equivalent of a doomsday prepper kit.