The NHL labor dispute took a new twist Friday as the league made a preemptive legal strike, trying to stop the players from dissolving their union.

The league filed a class-action suit, asking a federal judge in New York to rule on the legality of the lockout, which reached its 90th day.

The NHL also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a statement released Friday night, an NHLPA spokesman said "based on what we've learned so far, the NHL appears to be arguing the players should be stopped from even considering their right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union. We believe their position is completely without merit."

It's no coincidence that the NHL's move was made after the NHLPA, locked in a three-month labor dispute with the owners, let it be known it may file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union.

If it did, the players could file an antitrust suit against the league and ask a judge to declare the lockout illegal.

The latest "leak" from the players could be a ploy by the union to try to speed up the negotiating process with the owners. The sides did not meet on Friday.

The NHL said the players' threat was "nothing more . . . than a negotiating tactic."

During last year's NBA lockout, players filed a disclaimer of interest but had a new CBA 12 days later, and the union quickly reformed.