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Labor Log: Who swings first at Jeremy Jacobs if 30 owners/700 players meet?


Quite an interesting day, dear readers, on the NHL labor front.

Nobody should have expected anything different from federal mediators, who essentially threw their hands in the air after two days of conversations with the NHL and NHLPA. Given the ideological divide between owners and players, it is hard to blame the kind souls at the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service for getting out of this mess.

Hey, at this point, who among us wouldn’t if we could?

The statements (and cue “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones  ):

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:

“Today, we concluded two days of mediation with FMCS mediators and representatives of the NHL Players’ Association.  could be made through further mediation at this point in time.  We are disappointed that the mediation After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution process was not successful.”

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr:

“Today, players and NHLPA staff, along with representatives of the league, concluded a second day of mediation under the auspices of the FMCS.  This afternoon, the mediators informed the parties that they did not think it was productive to continue the discussions further today.  The mediators indicated that they would stay in contact with the league and the NHLPA, and would call the parties back together when they thought the time was right.”

 Of course, the wow-gosh-bang development from Thursday was the NHL’s offer to let players and owners meet without league/union executives in the room.

Daly declined comment when pressed if all owners would be allowed in that meeting, and here is hoping nobody really pushes for every NHL owner to be in that room.

Then again, 30 owners (or their reps) and 700-plus players, all in the same room, with all this animosity between some of them – yeah, that could be “Dark Knight Rises” stuff; far better than an exploding Heinz Field, surely.

There is no reason for the NHLPA to accept this offer, period. And, as a few players said via text late Thursday, there is no way the union will approve such a meeting.

Though, it would be great if more owners’ voices were heard. The lockout negotiations have not included moderates (Penguins, Red Wings, Sabres), some lesser-revenue clubs (Hurricanes, Blues, Islanders), and some big-money boys (Rangers, Canadiens) into the talks with players.

Also, really, at this point, wouldn’t it be fascinating just to see what the Flyers would say?

Even if the NHL agrees to broaden the group of owners who are allowed to speak to players during this lockout, it might not be enough to change anything given the league bylaws that essentially allow a minority of eight owners to rule.

This offer by the NHL has the feel of tossing spaghetti against the wall – then again, nothing else is working, so why not?

There is a real sense among NHL officials, team personnel and union players that the season is close to being lost. Again.

Anything is worth a try, but not a meeting without Fehr or commissioner Gary Bettman in the room.

The union hired Fehr for a reason, and that was to negotiate this deal. The owners employ Bettman for many reasons, but to do this deal is the biggest reason.

Both of those guys should be in the room. So should 30 club player reps, and 30 owners or their reps.

That would be a good idea.

A battle royal of owners and players without anybody to keep the peace – yeah, that ends well.

(Would be interesting to see which side takes a swing at Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs first, though, right? )






Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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