Mediators get NHL, NHLPA to agree ... to meet again

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly speaks to the media in New York, N.Y., Nov. 11, 2012. (CARLO...

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly speaks to the media in New York, N.Y., Nov. 11, 2012. (CARLO ALLEGRI/Reuters)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

The federal mediator did get the NHL and NHL Players' Association to agree on one front.

To meet again.

The two sides wrapped up six hours of meetings with the Washington-based Federal Mediation and Concillation Service at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will sit down again Thursday at an undisclosed location as the NHL lockout reaches Day 75.

It's believed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, along with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr, provided briefs for the mediators assigned by the FMCS.

"A small group of NHLPA staff and players met with two experienced FMCS mediators," said Donald Fehr in a statement. "We expect these discussions will resume Thursday."

Both sides were scheduled to sit down separately with the mediators and get them up to speed on the talks for a collective bargaining agreement.

The NHL's board of governors -- preparing to meet for an update on talks next Wednesday in New York -- will be keeping a close eye on what happens in the mediation process.

League sources say the governors will try to come up with a "drop-dead" date to have a meaningful season during the session next week. Unlike 2004-05, when the season wasn't cancelled until late-February, that won't be the case this time.

"They are loathe to cancel the season and they're getting a lot of heat from sponsors to play, but they aren't going to wait as long as the last time to shut it down," said a league insider.

There is going to be a lot on the table for the governors. Not only will they have a good idea what happened during the mediation session, they will also decide what steps are going to be taken next in the process.

Nobody is sure what is to be gained from mediation. The two sides remain opposed on two major issues that could lead to a deal: The union not wanting to link salaries to revenues and the NHL honouring existing contracts.

The 'Make Whole' issue on contracts is negotiable. The NHL has offered to put $211 million aside for existing deals while the union wants another $182 million added to the pot.

That's a huge sticking point for the league.

The two sides can find common ground on that issue but the governors may decide to pull that off the table because the offer for 'Make Whole' was made in mid-October as part of a proposal for a full 82-game schedule.

Linking revenues to salaries is another issue entirely and this is where league officials are hopeful a mediator will be able convince the union that they have to share in risks. The NHLPA's recent proposal was full of guarantees for players.

The players offered a 50-50 revenue split during a meeting last week in New York but once the numbers were added up, they would have received 56.5% of the revenues. That's why the NHL thumbed its nose at the deal.

The NHL doesn't believe the revenues will be at $3.3 billion coming out of the lockout, which means the growth will be stalled and most of the union's projections have been based on growth. Hence, talks are stalled.

The players remain hopeful the mediator might actually help find a solution. Montreal Canadiens blueliner P.K. Subban told Sportsnet's HockeyCentral at Noon the union is waiting to see what happens.

"At this point you have to look at every single angle that you can," said Subban, a restricted free agent who can't sign a deal with the Habs until there's a CBA in place. "A mediator, whether you think it's going to get the job done or not, you still have to go through the process, right?

"We'll only see what's going to come out of it and I hope something good will come out of it, I really do."

If that's going to happen, both sides must be willing to compromise. The league and union ended up at mediation because both felt they had reached the point they couldn't go any further.

Not sure why they'd think any differently just because a third party says they should.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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