According to a tweet from Katie Strang, Brad Richards said that he isn’t very optimistic about mediation and he said that right now he is “scared for the game.
Pat Leonard tweets Richards saying that he doesn’t see what a mediator will do if the NHL sticks to its word of their previous offer being their last offer.
The full quote, via Leonard, is “Players are very together, all asking real questions, all want to know where it’s going. We’re scared for the game.”
At CBC, Dan Oldfield writes that a key to remember with mediation is that it is non-binding and used to help both sides find common ground on which to build a deal.
He says that the mediators will “attempt to uncover the real needs of the parties — as opposed to the wants — and bring them closer to satisfying those needs.”
Oldfield says that the mediators may never bring the two sides into the same room and that after meeting with both sides to understand what their issues are they will start exploring the different ways that the gap can be bridged.
At ESPN.com Henry Abbott, who writes True Hoop, wrote about mediator George Cohen who is the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director.
Cohen was a mediator during the NBA lockout last year.
On what can be expected, Abbott writes “The NBA had its longest days of mediation when Cohen got involved. There is a practical reason for that — the process calls for the the two sides to be separated much of the time, with Cohen shuttling back and forth between them. Progress is slow. However, Cohen is said to have a deliberate tactic of making the days long to make clear that everyone means business, to minimize distractions from interested parties not in the room and to wear down those opposing a deal. After bargaining until 3 a.m. repeatedly, people tend to soften.”
Chris Botta tweeted “Non-binding mediation for NHL and PA will be as useful as the union’s labor board challenges. Killing time til BoG meeting on Dec. 5.”
5:43PM: Guy Serota has been removed from the mediation panel. Serota had a questionable twitter feed that was drawing many questions.
Don Fehr released a statement saying, The NHLPA has agreed to the addition of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to our ongoing negotiations. We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners.
3:53PM: Renaud Lavoie tweets that mediation is expected to begin on Wednesday when the two sides meet.
3:11PM:It has been announced that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to involve a federal mediator
The following was released about the decision:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued the following statement today on the ongoing labor negotiations between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association:
“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.”
THIS SECTION has more on mediation and how it has worked for the NHL in the past.
At ESPN, Katie Strang spoke with Judge Arthur Boylan who said that he really wants a shot at solving the CBA issues separating the NHL and NHLPA.
Boylan is a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Wild and told Strang that he would volunteer to mediate talks for free just to get the deal done.
He said that the two sides need to understand that for better or worse the fate of the league is up to them, “They know the future of the game is in their hands. They’d really be blowing this thing if it doesn’t get resolved, it being the second lockout in recent memory. That would be a real disaster for everybody.”
Boylan was in charge of mediation talks between the NFL and NFLPA during their lockout last year.
Strang said that Boylan encouraged the two sides to always be talking and that his chief responsibility was to see who meshed with who”a large part of Boylan’s job was not just to find traction in negotiations but to also determine which lawyers worked well with who, which owners and which players were helpful to the process.”
Strang adds “Often times the two sides would stay at the same hotel, he said, and even when they met with fierce resistance, he insisted the two sides “break bread” after sessions. Whether it was joining up for dinner or grabbing a few cocktails, Boylan wanted the two sides to maintain communication. “
An explanation of how the NHL used mediation in the past can be found, HERE.
At ESPN.com, Pierre LeBrun writes that the NHL is not ready to bring a mediator in to help get things moving in regards to a getting a new CBA done.
Bill Daly told LeBrun, “So far, I think we all have been in agreement that we didn’t think that the introduction of a mediator into the process was timely or that it would necessarily further the process. That may change at some point, but it hasn’t yet.”
George Cohen, who declined LeBrun’s interview request, was the mediator who worked with the NBA and NBAPA last year.
Cohen previously worked as a consultant for the NHLPA, NBAPA and MLBPA but the NY Times says that he takes a down the middle approach.
Notwithstanding Cohen’s pro-union background, management lawyers say he is a down-the-middle mediator who is adept at nudging two sometimes unmovable groups, as he must do in this instance. His skills as a private mediator helped persuade President Obama in 2009 to appoint him director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which steps in to help end major disputes that are hurting the economy.
The NHL’s lead lawyer Bob Batterman dealt with Cohen during the NFL lockout when Batterman represented the NFL. Batterman said, “He has total credibility on both sides. He knows how to move the process, and he understands the politics on each side of the table.”
Cohen told the NY Post last year, “All labor disputes come to an end. And some day, there will be an agreement or otherwise there wouldn’t be an enterprise anymore. We are ready willing and able to assist parties in the future and hopefully they will do it and we can have a peaceful resolution of their dispute.”
The NHL and NHLPA went to mediation in 2004 and while it was in those sessions that the NHLPA finally decided to accept a salary cap, after three failed sessions, Gary Bettman canceled the season.
Bob Batterman also represented the NHL in 2004-05.