The NHL and NHLPA made little progress in their meetings with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service — an expected, though nonetheless frustrating, result, as the lockout reached its 75th day.
(If only Guy Serota had been there to break the ice with his randy humor and genial comportment ...)
From NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
"Today, we concluded two days of mediation with FMCS mediators and representatives of the NHL Players' Association. 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 could be made through further mediation at this point in time. We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful."
Via the NHLPA, Donald Fehr said:
"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."
The two sides met with the FMCS for two days. It wasn't a binding arbitration, but rather a chance to find some common ground on the lockout's key issues through a third party, as negotiations had reached a stalemate.
This process was never expected to produce an end to the lockout, given the participants. As Gary R. Roberts, a professor of law at Indiana University, told the Washington Times:
"This isn't like a hysterical couple doing divorces or a commercial dispute where one side or the other is just being totally unrealistic. These are two very sophisticated and experienced groups. I just don't see how much a mediator can bring to the table other than to remind them of what's at stake periodically."
The best that could have been hoped for here was that both sides were candid with their wants in this negotiation — cards on the table, clearly established objectives and what it would take to achieve them.
But with the NHL Board of Governors meeting next week, and the NHLPA making a lot of noise about decertification, it's still a staring contest between two sides apparently oblivious to the concept of fan apathy and the smell of money burning all around them.
Check out Nick Cotsonika's "if I were the mediator" piece on how this thing should have played out.