NHL-NHLPA meeting with mediators over. Told no progress— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) November 29, 2012
Federal mediation wasn't expected to produce a breakthrough in negotiations, and after two days of trying with a middleman, it has proved to be a giant waste of time.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly commented in regard to this week's meetings (via Dan Rosen of NHL.com on Twitter):
Today, we concluded two days of mediation with FMCS mediators and representatives of the NHL Players' Association. After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time. We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful.
There aren't many options left for the league and its players. They have tried negotiating, and that hasn't worked. They have met for hours and hours for consecutive days and still weren't able to make much progress, and federal mediation also did very little to move this process forward.
So what's the next step in this process?
Bettman proposed to Fehr and PA an owner-payer mtng only. No NHL or NHLPA brass. Fehr and PA are believed to be considering.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 29, 2012
Not all owners would be included in this owner-player meeting. Hasn't been determined. Not sure why either side wouldn't welcome this.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 29, 2012
#CBA Parameters of proposed meeting -- i.e. who is allowed/invited to attend -- will be a point of discussion as NHLPA mulls the idea— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) November 29, 2012
I would love to attend this meeting and have the opportunity to watch these players talk to the owners, especially the "hardliners" such as Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins. That would be fun to watch, to say the least.
It's certainly risky for the players to enter a meeting like this without proper representation, such as NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr or a lawyer, but meeting face-to-face with the men who voted to have a lockout has the potential to yield some progress.
Regardless of whether the NHLPA agrees to this meeting, two possible steps for the union to take next are to decertify or disclaim interest (which dissolves the union).
The good news is that neither side has stopped communicating, and both are coming up with different ways to move closer to an agreement. They haven't given up yet, which is why you should still be somewhat optimistic that we will have a shortened 2012-13 NHL season.