Federal mediation is one method that the NHL and NHLPA can try in an attempt to end the lockout and work out a CBA that both sides find beneficial.
If mediation does become involved in this labor dispute, there's one man who should be given the opportunity.
Judge Arthur Boylan may have led mediation between the National Football League and NFL Players Association during last year’s lockout, but the Minnesota-based chief federal magistrate finds the current NHL work stoppage hitting closer to home.
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"I’d volunteer to do it for free," Boylan said in a telephone interview with ESPNNewYork.com. "I’d love to get this thing done."
Whether mediation is a route the NHL and NHLPA pursue -- both sides have admitted being open to the possibility at points throughout the process -- remains to be seen.
We definitely need someone with an "I’d love to get this thing done" attitude in the negotiating sessions between the league and its players.
With the two sides arguably closer to a new deal than they have ever been, using a federal mediator who has previously worked in these types of labor disputes could be the final solution to the problems that the owners and players are struggling to work out.
If the two sides are going to ask a mediator to help out, it should be someone who loves the sport like Boylan, who will do anything he can to help the two sides reach an agreement.
While the owners stand by their latest offer, the NHLPA should be vocal, both publicly and privately, about having a federal mediator involved.
Mediation is one of the players' best hopes of getting a CBA that benefits them as much as possible. After making a strong offer earlier this week and having a few players speak out against the union in the days that followed, this is a very critical time for the NHLPA.
The owners might be sensing that the players are starting to crack and that their desire to play is steadily increasing to the point where they will continue to move toward the owners on the major issues for a CBA to be made.
Mediation would aid the players because it would help the two sides reach a fair agreement—and not one that significantly favors one side or the other. If a deal is going to be one-sided, which is likely, it's going to be in favor of the owners.
What are the chances that the NHL agrees to have federal mediation in the labor talks? Probably very small. The league knows the players will probably crack when the season is on the line, so why agree to mediation when your side will likely end up winning in a major way at some point in the near future?
The owners have much more to lose if Boylan, or any other mediator, is hired to help craft an agreement.
However, if the deadline to cancel the season is fast approaching and both sides are still at a stalemate after all other methods to negotiate have been used, mediation might be the best course of action.
Mediation doesn't seem to be an option at the moment, but at some point soon, it may be needed in order to save the 2012-13 NHL season.
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