Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The chance of federal mediation having a
positive effect on the NHL lockout was considered a long shot and somehow the
process managed to fall well below those meager expectations.
There was at least hope that mediators could bring another set of eyes to the
stalled negotiations and put this battle between the players and owners on the
road to reconciliation.
But that didn't happen and it wasn't even close.
As it turns out the mediation process lasted only two days and confirmed what
most of us already knew -- neither the players or owners are ready to make a
The sound bites coming out of both camps confirmed the sizeable gap keeping
the two sides from hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement and
those differences don't seem to be going anywhere.
"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," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said "the mediators informed the parties
that they did not think it was productive to continue discussions."
Although it was pretty clear that non-binding mediation wasn't going to solve
hockey's labor problems all by itself, the fact that it led to no progress at
all can't be a good sign.
In fact, things may be bleaker now than ever in light of the failed attempt at
With the Winter Classic and All-Star weekend canceled and the regular season
scrapped through Dec. 14, the players and owners should be desperate for
compromise at this point. Instead, the sides appear to be only marginally
closer than they were when the last CBA expired in September.
The NHL has not offered a counter-proposal since rejecting the player's offer
last week and the league has shown no signs it's about to cave. If the owners
don't come up with a new proposal soon than it appears the NHLPA will be
forced to decertify.
By going the decertification route, the NHLPA will be waive its right to
collectively bargain as a union and instead focus on attacking the league with
lawsuits. If you didn't think there was enough legalese to sift through
already just wait until decertification really lets the lawyers get involved.
For the few optimists remaining out there, one piece of news that came out
Thursday could be interpreted as promising. That information was relayed by
TSN's Darren Dreger, who through his Twitter account revealed that NHL
commissioner Gary Bettman proposed to Fehr a meeting that involved owners and
players only, without interference from league or union brass.
However, just like with mediation the only reason to be optimistic about a
meeting between players and owners is because it hasn't been tried during the
current dispute. So, pretty much the same reason people felt mediation could
only help negotiations and not hurt them.
It's pretty clear that both sides locked in this staring contest are running
out of options that could bring an end to this conflict. With close to 35
percent of the regular season already lost it's getting more and more
difficult to believe a solution can be reached before the entire campaign is
After all, if a third-party mediator can't see any way to bring the owners and
players closer together can we really believe the sides can do it on their
Cue track 1 of Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" because "it's not dark yet, but
it's getting there."
The Sports Network