Here We Go Again

As we quietly sulk into this, the 73rd day of the 2012-13 NHL Lockout, we find ourselves at another bend in the road; mediation.

While the lyrics to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” blaring in my ears, I can’t help but think that we have been down this road before.

Well, actually…we have.

While mediation does have a proven track record of success after being involved in the both the labor dispute with the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, they were also involved in the 2004-2005 NHL Lockout. As we all know, that did not end well.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services Director George H. Cohen said in a statement that he has assigned Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and Director of Mediation Services John Sweeney to serve as the mediators between the NHL and NHLPA. ~ NHL.com

Commissioner Guy Serota was originally assigned to the talks, but Cohen announced his removal later Monday because of off-color comments made on a Twitter account with Serota’s name. ~ NY Times

Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh was actually one of the mediators assigned to the 2004-05 NHL Lockout. Let’s hope that he has better luck this time.

From what I can see, the NHL does not seem to have much hope that this is going to come to a satisfactory resolution. As Dolly mentioned earlier in her post, Bill Daly was quoted as saying:

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.”

No particular level of expectation? I would assume that there would be a definite level of expectation coming from both sides going into this. I would hope that they would go into these discussions with the expectation of getting this resolved as quickly and as cleanly as possible. But hey, who am I?

September 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHLPA executive director Don Fehr (center) during a press conference at the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr released the following statement via NHL.com:

” 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.”

While not seeming overly optimistic, this is the kind of attitude that I wish the League had gone into these discussions with. Whereas he does not guarantee a resolution will come from the mediation, he does look forward to a equitable agreement for both the players and the owners. Isn’t that what we have wanted all along?

Everyone has an opinion in the matter; the players, the league, the officials, and even us, the fans. However, don’t expect to hear a lot of commenting going on during this stage in the negotiations. Gary Bettman has been saying for a long time that he feels that the involvement of the media in the negotiations has been hindering the process. I tend to disagree with him. I feel that the fans are owed a certain amount of knowledge of what is going on here.

While I will concede that the average fan does not need to know where each side stands on every single issue, or what is discussed behind closed doors, they are entitled to at least an overview of where things stand. After all, without us there to buy the season tickets, jerseys, and other various merchandise, these negotiations would seem a little silly, don’t you think? It is OUR money after all that keeps the league moving. As Pierre LeBrun from ESPN said, “Fans aren’t ATM machines with no feelings.”

But at the end of the day, we can expect a lot more radio silence as we enter this stage of the negotiations.

September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, Gary Bettman is right. (Okay, you can stop laughing now.) Maybe the self-imposed radio silence will help them concentrate more on what is in front of them as opposed to what is waiting outside with a million microphones, tape recorders, and angry fans.

Unfortunately, mediators are not miracle workers. Mediation will do nothing to further the cause if both sides are no prepared to sit down and work this deal out. This mediation is non-binding. This means that either side can get up and walk away from the table at any point.

We have already lost too much due to this debacle. As Dolly mentioned previously, Much like the Lightning had to do in the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, the Los Angeles Kings are anxiously waiting to raise their Stanley Cup Banner, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been all but robbed of what was to be their 20th Anniversary Season, and on top of all that, we have lost both the Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend. At what point is enough just that…enough?

At the end of the day, all we can hope for is that both sides are serious and have made up their minds to sit at the table and work this out once and for all. Then, I would like for them to address what needs to be done to assure that this does not happen again.

What do you feel needs to be done for both sides to reach a satisfactory agreement? Do you think that mediation is the answer? Please let us know in the comments.

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