Mediators May Not End NHL Lockout But It's a Start

When the NHL and NHLPA announced that the two sides have agreed to bring in two U.S federal mediators, the natural reaction from any hockey fan is going to be a positive one. At least that’s how it should be.  But pardon me if I’m not jumping up and down at the thought of a third party bringing neutral ground between the two sides as I’m not quite sold that this is the start of the end for the lockout.

The reason being is quite simple.  This process was tried back in 2004-05 when the same NHL went through a nasty lockout that ended up with the entire season being cancelled.  Mediators were brought in on three separate occasions with the last being just three days before Gary Bettman cancelled the season for good in February.

While realizing that this is the start of trying something different, there remain two factors that have me concerned with the mediators.

The first is that Scot L. Beckenbaugh is one of the two mediators.  While that may not mean anything to you just by reading his name, TSN.ca states that Beckanbaugh was “acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service” during the last NHL lockout eight years ago.  So if he sat in on discussions the last go round who’s to say that he will have an impact this time.

But further more, the biggest concern over having the mediators involved with the fear that they won’t be able to help push towards a new CBA is how they are being utilized.

According to the report on TSN.ca, the mediation will be “non-binding.”  This simply means that the NHL and NHLPA will not have to agree or abide by with what the two mediators suggest no matter how beneficial the recommendation might be towards bridging the gap that remains between playing and having the lockout further ruin the greatest game on ice.

Again, if the two sides aren’t going to use the mediators the way they are best used, why have them there at all?  Sure it makes sense to have a third party trying to find common ground between them and an outside opinion can’t necessarily hurt anything.  Hey, it can’t get a whole lot worse right?

But why not have both sides submit what they deem to be their best offer and let the mediators choose what the next CBA will look like.

To answer that is quite easy.  Both sides want too much and aren’t willing to concede to the other’s levels.  Call it greed if you will on both the owners and the players.

Don’t forget that Donald Fehr isn’t ready to back down just because a few players are getting restless.  He’s as ruthless as they come and if you need further evidence just look what he did to Major League Baseball.  The great American past time was left destroyed after Fehr was finished with the 1994 lockout and it took the league years, nearly decades to get it back to the grand scale.  A couple of doped up, home run slugging players taking a run at a record that lasted nearly thirty years only propelled the game to an elite level, but the damage was felt well before that.

So while having mediators sit in and propose common ground, it’s hard to get excited when they could end up being just another voice from in the corner.  If not used properly we could be staring at another wasted couple of weeks of negotiations and with the entire season potentially being cancelled, the time is now to get this CBA resolved and get the NHL back in full swing.

Here we sit with December lurking and a huge gap remains between the NHL and the player’s association.  Getting mediators is a good step in the right direction, but if not used properly we could be wasting everyone’s time.

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