NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Kypreos (@RealKyper) November 26, 2012
Here are some comments from Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen from a press release on Monday:
I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement. At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices. I have assigned Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Director of Mediation Services John Sweeney, and Commissioner Guy Serota to serve as the mediators.
As Steve Zipay of Newsday points put, Cohen has experience dealing with labor disputes involving major sports leagues:
Mediator George Cohen oversaw NFL talks for 17 days before they broke off in 2011. No guarantees here. A court-ordered mediator saved NFL.— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) November 26, 2012
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly commented on the news Monday afternoon (via Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune on Twitter):
The FMCS reached out to both sides independently, and apparently we both agreed that we are prepared to explore the process. I have no level of expectation at this point. We'll see how it goes and perhaps something good will come of it.
By bringing federal mediation into this labor dispute, the hope is that the mediators will be able to help the owners and players reach some compromises on certain issues.
Both sides have been unable to compromise on many of the important issues being negotiated (such as the "make whole" provision and player contract rights), so having a neutral third party enter the process can only help. These mediators can bring new and fresh ideas to the table that could help both sides find ways to solve the issues that are preventing real progress from being made.
Do you think federal mediation will help both sides reach a new CBA?
That said, the job of the mediators is to help the sides negotiate, not to make final decisions or settle certain issues between the league and its players. Mediation does create the possibility for serious negotiations, but fans' expectations shouldn't be too high after hearing this news.
The NHL and NHLPA tried mediation during the previous lockout in 2005 when the season was on the line, but it didn't help very much. Just a few days later, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
However, the issues impacting this lockout are a bit different, so the chances of mediation helping both sides find a route to a new CBA are probably a bit higher than they were seven years ago.
Hopefully mediation will help end the lockout as soon as possible, but unless both sides become more willing to compromise, don't expect much progress to be made.