Labor log: Local mediators warn against believing mediation can get NHL back on ice. Also, Crosby talks Hamrlik.


A busy Monday, dear readers, as the NHL lockout hit Day 72.

A story is on the site – – about the big news, which is that federal mediators are getting involved in the NHL/NHLPA negotiations. Statements from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, the NHL and NHLPA:

• FMCS director George Cohen:

“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:

“We are able to confirm that we have agreed to a request by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to engage in meetings with the Union that will involve the participation of Federal Mediators.  While we have no particular level of expectation going into this process, we welcome a new approach in trying to reach a resolution of the ongoing labor dispute at the earliest possible date.  We have no further comment on the upcoming meetings at the current time.”

• NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr:

“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.”  

 OK, so what does all this mean?

Nothing perhaps, says Jared Simmer, a local mediator/arbitrator and public policy professor at CMU.

Among the interesting points Simmer made during an interview:

» Mediators do not have the power to impose upon the parties, in this case the NHL or NHLPA;

» Mediators are involved to do a reality check, ask questions and make suggestions;

» FMCS may have decided to get involved because players began publicly discussing the decertification tactic used by NFL and NBA players in 2011 lockouts by those league’s owners;

» More likely, FMCS became involved because of the commerce implications the NHL lockout is having – and a lost season would have – in the United States;

“It says to me both sides are saying, ‘We’re not going to get anywhere,’” Simmer said of FMCS involvement.

Ralph Cindrich, a local NFL agent and mediator, said the FMCS’ chances for success with the NHL negotiations depends on “if the sides want to get a deal done.”

“A mediator – I don’t know if you can read much into that; it’s a step going in the right direction, but that’s about it,” Cindrich said. “The only time mediation has any force is when a judge is involved.”

So, basically, there is a belief among those who know the law a lot better than anybody who posts on this blog that the mediation development may be, essentially, no big deal – or, at least, no sign that a deal between the NHL and NHLPA is closer today than it was Sunday.

The NHL Governors’ meeting is slated for Dec. 5, in New York, and that could be the next big pressure point in this labor war. Commissioner Gary Bettman would like to have a labor contract ready for presentation and certification at that meeting, which would allow games to begin Dec. 15.

However, it is not out of the question, at least if the tea leaves can be read accurately, that he would also lay out a plan season cancelation at that meeting.

There is a sense, and a growing one, the NHL will not wait until February, as it did with the last lockout (2004-05), to cancel the season. Nothing confirmed on that end, but that is the feel from some with far more knowledge of the inner dealings of this negotiation than this blog author.

Anyway, there has been a lot to check on today, but also check out some of what Sidney Crosby told our Josh Yohe after a players’ workout Monday at Soutpointe:

= On Roman Hamrlik’s critical comments of Fehr:

“It’s his third lockout,” Crosby said of Hamrlik. “He’s probably got a couple of years left. For this to happen, he’s probably beyond frustrated. Everyone has the right to say what they want. To be honest, to have 750 guys to have the exact same outlook on every detail is tough.”

Crosby continues to speak fair-minded when it comes to the labor war being waged by his league and union – a war, by the way, that is wiping out one of his prime years. At 25, Crosby has already missed much of the last two seasons because of concussion symptoms.

He has played 69 games since Jan. 1, 2011.

Think about that.