NHL Lockout: Failure of Federal Mediation Shows Distance Between Two Sides

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 30, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Facing an imending NHL lockout, players attend the press conference following NHLPA meetings at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Even the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services couldn't bring the NHL and NHLPA any closer to a new collective bargaining agreement. The 2012-13 season now seems like all but a lost cause, and the abject failure by both sides to reach a compromise to this point shows how much distance there really is in negotiations.

That assertion was further fortified by Canadian Press lead hockey writer Chris Johnston, who quoted NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who gave an update on how the mediators felt the process went:

Daly: "After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart."

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 29, 2012

Hockey-related revenue is the biggest hang-up in the negotiations, because the league suddenly wants a 50-50 split as opposed to the 57 percent that the players enjoyed raking in based on the 2004-05 CBA (h/t ESPN).

Originally down to 46 percent of the players' share in the initial offer, the NHLPA has managed to gain an even split. But the league refuses to fork over $393 million to the players in fixed payments over the next four years, instead holding ground at $211 million.

That's quite a substantial drop-off, and while the owners and league are the ultimate financiers of the league, the players have already come an extremely long way to compromise.

More than anything, this situation is hurting the fans of the game, who already suffer as followers of a less popular mainstream sport in America.

But if there is any solace to be taken in the aftermath of Thursday's debacle, there is at least a ray of hope for a change of pace.

ESPN New York's Katie Strang cited sources in reporting that dialogue between the commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr may give way to a new development:

Commissioner Gary Bettman proposed to Fehr a meeting between owners and players only, with no league or NHLPA staff present. Fehr is believed to be considering the option but has yet to respond to the league.

Unfortunately, everything that has been attempted thus far has failed, and there's no reason to think this will be any different.

The fact that so many alternatives have to be explored is ridiculous, as Miller has so eloquently indicated. But the use of federal mediators is something that seemed unfathomable, and the game of hockey is going to suffer significantly with this massive CBA gridlock.

Considering the physicality of the sport and the high risk of injury, it is important that players are financially secure. It seems unfair that the owners and league are taking so much away from them when they are creating the product that they profit from.

At the same time, players who make it in the NHL should be pretty well off, and they could at any point cut whatever losses they would endure and get back on the ice. It would beat the heck out of missing their paychecks, which is what is happening right now.

Also to keep in mind is the plethora of employees that depend on the league running to maintain their jobs.

But if a federal agency that specializes in compromises can't get these two sides to come together, all hope may be lost already.