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NHL players' vote called 'safety net'

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WINNIPEG — While a second vote of NHLPA members has been called to authorize their leadership to execute a disclaimer of interest — possibly as early as Saturday — Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little insisted this morning it’s just a step in the overall process.

"I think it’s just kind of there as a safety net if things go bad," Little said this morning at the MTS Iceplex. "If we feel we’re just not negotiating anymore then they have the right to do that.

"I think it’s a smart move by us."

Whether it’s tactic or safety net, the possible effective dissolution of the union is part of the ever-shrinking time frame in talks that could save any version of a 2012-13 NHL season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has dismissed any thought of less than 48 games for a regular season and to make that happen, a new labour agreement must be done by late next week.

The league wants a 48-game campaign to begin on Jan. 19 and back-dating the logistics, a deal is needed by about Jan. 11 so that rushed training camps can begin.

Little said he’s getting a bit more nervous that the deadline is one day closer.

"You never know if that’s the actual deadline or if things are really close they could push it back a bit," he said. "It’s definitely getting to that point where it’s going to be season or no season. I think everyone’s a bit on nerves.

"It seems like they’re moving at a faster pace than before. They traded proposals for three to five days. At least they’re going back and forth trying to figure this thing out."

The increased pace is present in small ways in Winnipeg, too. the Jets and other locally-based NHLers have upped their training and skating routine to six days a week.

The players have been locked out since Sept. 15.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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