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Federal mediators brought in to assist NHL labor talks

Nov 26, 2012, 3:44 PM EDT

George Cohen Getty Images

Enter the marriage counselors to the NHL’s labor dispute.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen issued the following statement 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.

“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 and/or the status of the negotiations until further notice.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the development to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

“The FMCS reached out to both sides independently, and apparently we both agreed that we are prepared to explore the process,” said Daly.

“I have no level of expectation at this point. We’ll see how it goes and perhaps something good will come of it.”

The mediation will not be binding.

The NHL had previously questioned the usefulness of mediation in its dispute with the players, citing the belief that each side fully understood the other side’s position.

Update: NHLPA head Donald Fehr released this statement regarding mediation (via’s Tracey Myers):

“The NHLPA has agreed to the addition of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to our ongoing negotiations. We look forward to (mediators’) involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both players and owners.”


  1. jimw81 - Nov 26, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    “Percentage of mediated cases settled through FMCS,” per the agency’s annual report, has been 85-87% each of last four years. trying to give some hope.

  2. tfaltin - Nov 26, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Finally both sides decided they want an adult in the room…I hope he brings a high-chair for Gary, sippy-cup for Don and a round of pacifiers.

    • chrisvegas - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

      Ya, but will they listen to the adults when they don’t like what they hear?

  3. elemeno89 - Nov 26, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    thank god. maybe now my interest in a sport i once loved like no other will be saved.

  4. tmoore4075 - Nov 26, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    The pessimism has taken over my whole body. I don’t see it helping much. I can see the PA listening and giving at least a little where the mediator thinks the PA should. The NHL…not so sure. If the league hasn’t bent, especially on contract rights, why would they do it now?

    • stakex - Nov 26, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      I don’t see this getting either side to move. They both know the score, and know how far they are willing to go. The problem is they have both gone that far and there is still a gap between them.

      The mediator can make all the suggestions in the world to help bridge the gap, but at the end of the day both sides have to move from their bottom line. A mediator isn’t likely to help that happen.

  5. ibieiniid - Nov 26, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    way to give us the whole optimistic to pessimistic spectrum with the tweets. really makes me feel the exact same I have through this entire lockout.

  6. trick9 - Nov 26, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    The way these talks have been going, this can only be a good thing..

  7. phillyphanatic77 - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Finally! People have been suggesting this since the lockout began. The only problem is the same thick-headed individuals who refused to acknowledge both sides of the issues are still in charge. And how likely are they to listen to an independent third party? I’d say the union will be more open to the mediators because their rulings will be more favorable to the middle ground, a place where Bettman and the owners have repeatedly refused to go. Bottom line is it’s great to have some fresh, impartial minds overseeing these negotiations. They need a new perspective in there.

  8. comeonnowguys - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Seriously? How hard can it be? Lock the heads of both sides in separate rooms for the next few weeks and get some meaningful work done.

  9. id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Hmmm! So, do they now start from the initial offer made by the league in October, then compare that to the last CBA, and then move towards a middle ground based on economic variables? Still optimistic and hopeful they can come to terms before Dec 7th. Hopefully they can save the rest of the games in Dec.

  10. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Ah yes, wait until it’s almost time to cancel the season before bringing in any voices of reason. Keep up the good work, NHL/PA!

  11. 1clumsybear - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    How come Canadian Feds dont get involved?

    • chrisvegas - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:10 PM

      I guess they didn’t offer to help.

  12. ducksk - Nov 26, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Meditation? Was the Dali lama busy? Get the incense out. Hmmmmm hmmmmm

  13. orangeandblack67 - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Kudos on finally getting the mediators involved but one major thing still troubles me. Their rulings/suggestions are not binding. With that being said we are still left with two sides that refuse to step in the others shoes. Owners need to stop scratching for that extra buck and players need to remember that they are still the employees and not partners.

  14. jaybird22seven - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    This is a waste of time. As long as Gary Bettman is involved there will be no NHL !!!!

  15. chrisvegas - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Hopefully they can look at both sides and get them to meet somewhere in the middle. However, the Owners haven’t really shown the willingness to compromise, so I am not at all optimistic that the mediators will accomplish anything. I am for reasonable solutions and I will support whichever side that shows the most eagerness to listen to the mediator’s suggestions and compromise. This should be an interesting process and whichever side that is more reluctant will lose support from the fans and media. I’ll be surprised if the Owners don’t cry if this doesn’t go their way. Hopefully, though the mediators can come up with a solution that appeases both sides.

    • id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:47 PM

      BTW, they tried using a mediator to salvage the 04-05 season. Will it make a difference this time around?

  16. acieu - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    This is a waste of time as long as Donald Fehr is involved

    • eyeh8goodell - Nov 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      What a moronic statement. Fehr has offered up 2 straight concession-laden proposals that the Bettman shot down in less than 1.5 hours combined. It’s been all give on the players side of the proposals, and all take on the owners’ side. Remember when the NHL publicly offered to FULLY honor the make whole? Turns out they lied. And Bettman doesn’t even deny it was BS.

      The players have offered to go directly to 50/50 (gain for the owners, loss for the players). The players have offered to eat some of the make whole (gain for the owners, loss for the players). Tell me, what has Bettman offered? That’s what I thought.

  17. mississippimudslinger - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Let cooler heads prevail , call the season off and work on this damn thing over the summer..
    playing a half season is a waste of time , winners and awards will be loaded with asterisk’s and looked at in a negative way, arena will be half empty , the fans are pi$$ed off right now

  18. ron05342 - Nov 26, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    As the legendary voice of the Kings Bob Miller has suggested:

    “Put ’em in a room with a lot of water, and no bathroom breaks.”

    The mediation may not be binding in a legal sense; perhaps the mediator can take this advice and make it “binding” in a MEANINGFUL sense. 😉

    • manchestermiracle - Nov 27, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      I could be wrong, but it looks to me like both sides have already soiled their pants, at least in PR.

  19. orangeandblack67 - Nov 26, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    We must remember id4 that they didn’t get involved until Feb. of ’05. Lets hope two months make this lockout turn out a lil different. Cross our fingers and rub the rabbits foot.

  20. id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    What’s good about a lost season? Brian Burke will retain his job as GM of the worst, yet one of the richest franchises of the NHL.

  21. semin28 - Nov 26, 2012 at 7:29 PM


  22. capsrockva - Nov 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    just get the dam deal done please for the fans of the sport’s
    sake . If the owners (Ted, this is for you as “you are are one of the hardliners preventing from a deal gets done) Maybe NBC will modify their College Hockey Schedule to reflect the fans interest in the awesome game

  23. jaybertx - Nov 26, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    Non-binding mediation which makes it about as helpful as the posts on PHT.

    • comeonnowguys - Nov 27, 2012 at 9:04 AM

      I’ve seen a lot of great proposals to get the deal done in the comments here. Sure, only about 3% of them are legal, but hey…

  24. shotzongoal - Nov 26, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    In most mediation’s I’ve been in (of course not nearly these amounts of dollars) each party, in this case The Mediators, the NHL and the NHLPA are in separate rooms. Mediators will first meet with each group to find out which issues are important and the level of importance. They then go back and forth to each room explaining the other side views and give their thoughts on what they feel the response of the other side will be. One good thing about this is neither side (NHL or NHLPA) will directly interact with each other. The mediators will present all offers, counter-offers and rejections going from room to room. The Mediators will take almost any offer to the other side but there may come a time when an impasse is reached. Mediators are not judges they make no rulings.

  25. id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Interesting words from Charles Grantham who served as the first executive director of the NBPA from 1988-95.

    “When you’re in the environment of a lockout, most of it will not be good. It’s really about maintaining what you have. At the end of the lockout, you look at how much you were able to keep and what you had to give away.”

    “There was a time that decertification worked, and that was many years ago. It was before the legal system caught up with the system whereby a union would decertify itself to put more antitrust scrutiny on management. Back then, the application of decertification was so new, that the machinery wasn’t tuned and the court couldn’t figure out that this was a maneuver. More recently though, the courts have adjusted. Ultimately, we all knew when the agreement expired that we would be facing a lockout. The problem though, is what happens to the players in the meantime? The NBPA could say, ‘We’ve got this lawsuit going which will allow the guys to keep working.’ That would be great, but that is not the way that the system works. As a strategic plan, I no longer see the value of decertifying. If anything, it was demonstrated in the recent NFL and NBA labor negotiations that the unions need to re-think that strategy going forward.”

  26. id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    Mediation has not worked in the past…. Could this tactic be a PR move? See info from NBA lockout last year;

    Owners and players met again on October 18–20 for 30 hours of talks over three days. They met before a federal mediator, George Cohen—the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Cohen earlier in the year tried unsuccessfully to resolve the 2011 NFL lockout.At the conclusion of the meetings, the sides remained split on the revenue split and the structure of the salary cap. The league proposed a 50–50 split of BRI, and the players proposed a range that would allow them as low as 50 percent of BRI to a maximum of 53%, depending on the league’s revenues. Gilbert told the players to trust that the salary cap issues could be resolved if they accepted the 50–50 proposal. Hunter responded, “I can’t trust your gut. I got to trust my own gut.” Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt told reporters that the players refused to negotiate after the 50–50 proposal. Fisher told the press “that you guys were lied to” by the owners. Hunter said the owners told them, “Take it or leave it.” Cohen decided that there was “no useful purpose” to continue mediation with the two sides.Tentative agreements were reached on smaller issues, allowing a one-time exemption for teams to waive players without counting against the salary cap, granting teams an annual exemption to waive players and prorate the impact to the salary cap over multiple years, and a mid-level exception of $5 million.

  27. id4joey - Nov 26, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    Does the following sound familiar?

    “We’re not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases. We’re saying no way. We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are.”

    Billy Hunter, NBPA Executive Director

  28. vanchuk - Nov 26, 2012 at 9:54 PM

  29. cspsrbums - Nov 26, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Someone out there said we will be signing a new CBA real soon, but he also has been saying that during the whole lockout. Wonder who that could be. You know who you are.

    • rainyday56 - Nov 27, 2012 at 2:28 AM

      I said Dec. 3, the date which I beleive an NHL faceoff will occur. Most likely a preseason game.

  30. eyeh8goodell - Nov 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    I hope this fails. I want a cancelled season. I want another black stain on Bettman’s career and reputation. Only a blind fool of a fan would go back to the NHL with their dollars this year. The fans that go right back are the absolute bottom of the barrel, lowest common denominator fans in the base. This season is tainted and a toxic entity.

  31. websurferdude - Nov 26, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    I hope the players don’t give in, I’m willing to lose this season so the owners go broke and Bettmen loses his job and his 8 million dollars a year (lockout or no lockout he still gets paid) salary, and broke owners can sell their teams to real people who love the sport and will do anything to keep the fans coming back every year. The union should de-certify force the owners back to the table, and fire Bettmen.

  32. thedavesiknowiknow - Nov 26, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    I give you: “The Mediator”.

  33. woodstakes - Nov 27, 2012 at 1:37 AM

    Well, I feel like having a mediator can only help… I mean how can it get any worse. It would be nice if they could get through to Bettman on the fact the players are willing and have shown that they are giving up a lot already in the proposals they’ve made. Make him see how truly GOOD of a gig he’s got here… I mean if you break it down a little its a pretty sick deal how much he gets paid compared to both the superstars in his league and in comparison to the revenues his league generates.

    The reality is the players In the NHL make substantially less than those in other leagues (the top players in ALL the other leagues make in the $20m-$30M range), however Bettman, he makes $8M a year ($3.3 Billion revenues). Which means there are what 3 players who make more than him? Compared to the other leagues: NFL – Roger Goodell’s $10.9M ($9 Billion in revenues) tons of players make more than him. NBA – David Stern $10M ($7 Billion revenues) More than half the league makes more than that. Even MLB Bud Selig who makes a whopping $18.4M a year ($7 Billion in revenues) and comparatively makes about the same salary compared to revenues (if you doubled NHL revenue and doubled Bettmans salary its relatively close) he STILL has 12 players who get paid more than him. As sick as that is, Bettman makes more than 2 of the others in comparison to revenue. Meanwhile the SUPERSTARS in the NHL make as much or just a little more than the commish… So WHO exactly are we just plain paying too much? I think that’s the better question here Gary!

    The reality is the only way to save these teams that are failing is pretty simple, but the owners don’t want to do it… REVENUE SHARING! The boys at the top need to take a lot less every year and move that money down to those that can’t make it, as long as you want them there, YOU guys need to pay to keep them there. IT is NOT the players salaries that killed these teams. Its the markets the EXISTING OWNERSHIP chose to put these teams in. Meanwhile there are places that all of these teams could be at least breaking even or turning substantial profits. Since, contraction is going to be shot down by both sides… NHL wants their expansion teams and NHLPA wants to keep those jobs, then relocation is the only other viable option. Will reduction to 50/50 split help these teams… sure a little, but really all it does is give the big boys more money out of the jar. I mean look at the reality here… IF a team who couldn’t pay the floor of last years cap ($48.3 million) and make a profit.. if they get 7% more thats what… $3.13 Million more dollars if the revenues were the same this year, so these teams are going to be just fine with just $3M more dollars.. yeah right!!

    Bettman constantly wants to bring up other leagues as models for what they want to do… well WTH does he think the NFL does with its revenue sharing… While it probably wouldn’t work for the NHL if they just copied it (since so much of the revenue generated by NHL teams are from local sources)… the fact of the matter is small markets can compete every year because the big boys give a lot of money every single year and the big boys in hockey… Make A LOT of money!! Toronto and New York Rangers ALONE could save all these teams just off of they’re profits! A bigger piece of the pie for the NHL just makes it so Toronto and New York Rangers will make more ‘profit’.

  34. dannythebisforbeast - Nov 27, 2012 at 1:57 AM

    Mo lawyers making mo money…yay

    lawyers love to complicate sh|t. should have continued my education a few more years. I could resolve this dispute on 400 billable hours

  35. id4joey - Nov 27, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Excellent read for those who are familiar with the series that changed hockey, and the goal that united Canada.

    Concussed Henderson had to plead to play in ’72 Summit Series

  36. id4joey - Nov 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Crosby, Ovechkin weigh in on Hamrlik Staff – 11/26/2012 9:41:14

    Sidney Crosby
    “I think a lot of the guys are frustrated with just the not talking, We understand the business side – that there’s negotiations and proposals going back and forth…but I think the whole process is just frustrating. I mean if we really want to get something done, I feel like we have to be there every single day, no matter what if we want to find a way to get it done. Whether or not that’s going to happen, I don’t know, but I think more than anything, the process is more frustrating than anything.”

    My comment: his lack of business experience is apparent

    About Hamrlik’a and Neuvirth’s comments.
    “They have a right to state what they think and…to be honest, to get 750 guys to have the exact same outlook on every single detail it’s pretty tough and pretty much impossible. But I think a good chunk of the guys realize what’s going on and I think if you look at Roman Hamrlik’s situation, this is his third lockout. He’s probably got a couple years left of playing in his mind and for this to be happening, I’m sure he’s beyond frustrated, I think everyone’s got that right.”

    Alex Ovechkin about Hamrlik’s comments
    “I’m not on his side, I’m not on Hamrlik’s side to be honest with you. I played last year with him and he always tells what he thinks, but right now it’s not that time to say what you think. You can say that at the bar or with your friends, but you can’t show you’re upset to the media. Again, I’m not with him and I’m kind of disappointed in what he said.”

    My comment: a Captain must not speak out publicly against a teammate. Grown men solve issues face to face.

    Alex Ovechkin about other teammate’s comments

    “Couple guys pissed off, they say bad things, but we stick together and we’re not going to listen to those guys. We have a team and of course, everyone wants to play, but we have to stick together…and I don’t know if everyone’s on the same page as those guys.”

    Complete lack of restraint and leadership. Evidence that he is not worthy of wearing the C.

  37. delsj - Nov 27, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Good plan, lets get the federal government involved & start wasting taxpayer money. There is nothing to be mediated. The battle lines are clear & one side needs to blink. That’s the only way an agreement will be reached, not because of these clowns.

  38. ausmcvet - Nov 28, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    I just want these idiots to get a deal done NOW! I am so pissed off about this dumb crap. A bunch of rich people fighting over their millions! Both sides are idiots IMO, alienating their fans–the most loyal fans in sports! One thing I must say however, the players DO need to remember that THEY are the employees!!!! I think there’s a lot of fans out there like me–if they don’t get this done soon, they can shove their sticks where the sun don’t shine! Get it done dammit! That is all…

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