It was another day -- No. 72 of the lockout for those counting at home -- and another turn in the painfully slow CBA negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA.
On late Monday afternoon the news broke that both the players union and the league agreed to allow the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to sit down with both parties to attempt to find a workable solution. The FMCS will sit down to negotiations with both groups this week.
The two sides are 182 million apart in the make-whole provision and have hit road blocks in several areas of contract player rights with all NHL games now cancelled through Dec. 14.
So bringing in federal mediation services has a "cant hurt" appeal to both parties.
Perhaps a fresh set of eyes can help both sides see the fair deal thats sitting right in front of them and aid in saving the 2012-13 season while its still possible. But at the same time the federal mediation service doesnt have any binding power over either the NHL or the NHLPA, and will simply be providing suggestions to put a merciful end to the impasse.
George H. Cohen, a federal mediator and director of FMCS, has experience working in both the NFL and NBA lockouts, and his agency released the following statement 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," Cohen said. "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.
"Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS's long-standing practice, the Agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule andor the status of the negotiations until further notice."
With rumblings coming out of the NHLPA that theyre seriously thinking about decertification dissolving the players union so they can file anti-trust lawsuits against the league and seek damages in a move that could cost both sides the season and the NHL scheduled for an important Dec. 5 meeting of the Board of Governors, it makes sense to go through the mediation process before either side jumps off their version of the fiscal cliff. In fact its the first logical, reasonable step thats happened in the NHL CBA process in a long, long time.
Before anybody gets their hopes up, however, take this into mind: the NHL and NHLPA also went through the federal mediation process in February of 2005 and cancelled the entire 2004-05 NHL season three days later.
So theres also that to think about.
The good news is that the NHL and NHLPA are entering into the process weeks before cancelling the 2012-13 regular season becomes even a remote possibility, and both parties have ample time and flexibility to work out the deal that everybody is hoping for.