NHL, players agree to bring in mediators
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are hoping some objective voices can help bring an end to their labour dispute.
With negotiations stalled on a new collective bargaining agreement, the sides have agreed to allow U.S. federal mediators into the process—something they tried without success on a couple of occasions prior to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
“We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners,” added NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.
The mediation will be non-binding, meaning the sides will not be forced to go along with suggestions or recommendations made by Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney.
Those mediators are scheduled to meet separately with the league and union tomorrow.
Beckenbaugh was acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service during the NHL’s last lockout and sat in on sessions at that time.
One of those occurred just three days before commissioner Gary Bettman cancelled the entire season in February, 2005.
The latest round of negotiations has seemed troubled from the start. The NHL and NHLPA haven’t met since last week, when the union tabled a proposal that Bettman quickly labelled as one that left the sides “far apart.”
They’ve managed to reach some common ground, with both proposing a 50-50 split of revenues throughout the agreement, but are divided on the amount of additional payments the league will make to help ease the transition.
The NHL has offered $211 million while the NHLPA asked for $393 million.
There also are a variety of rules relating to player contracts that still need to be sorted out.
Further complicating matters is the fact both sides have said their best proposal is already on the table.
“Any expectation that the offer is going to get better as time goes on is not realistic,” Bettman said last week.
Mediation has been used in virtually every labour dispute involving pro sports leagues in recent years.
George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, has worked with the players’ associations for Major League Baseball and the NBA, and also was an adviser to the NHLPA before joining the FMCS three years ago.