The NHL and NHL Players Association have agreed to some outside assistance from federal mediators.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen issued a statement Monday saying he had held separate, informal discussions with key representatives of the NHL and NHLPA. He said "at the invitation of the FMCS" and with agreement from both the league and the union, collective bargaining negotiations would be "conducted under our auspices."
NHL labor talks are expected to resume Wednesday in an attempt to end the impasse over a CBA that has had the NHL in a lockout since Sept. 15 and jeopardized the 2012-2013 season.
Cohen said he had assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and director of mediation services John Sweeney to serve as mediators. He said the agency would have no further comment on the schedule of meetings or the status of the negotiations because of the "extreme sensitivity" of the talks.
Federal mediators can make a difference. Since 2008, FMCS has helped settle 87 percent (2008), 86 percent (2009 and 2010) and 85 percent of mediated collective bargaining cases, according to the agencys 2011 annual report.
Mediation is not arbitration. Nothing is binding. But given the differences between the league and the union over CBA issues, mediators could offer advise and help foster a compromise on such contentious issues as the leagues make whole provision on honoring existing player contracts.
We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Monday in a statement.
FMCS was involved in the CBA disputes of both the NBA and the NFL last year. Federal mediation also was used during the NHLs CBA squabble in 2005, but mediators did not enter the process until February 2005 and could not prevent the 2004-2005 season from being canceled.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, in a statement, said the league had "no particular level of expectation" in using mediators, but noted the league welcomed "a new approach in trying to reach a resolution of the ongoing labor dispute at the earliest possible date."
The league has canceled all regular-season games through Dec. 14 and the 2013 Winter Classic game that was to be played New Years Day. The 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend also has been canceled.