SBD/November 28, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NHL Lockout, Day 74: Will Mediation Resolve Lingering Issues Between League, Union?

    The NHL and NHLPA today will "sit down separately" with a federal mediator to "give their side of the story," according to Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. Unless NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr are "willing to check their egos at the door, nobody is confident the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will find a solution to the lockout." It is "hard to find anybody who believes they'll actually be able to coerce the NHL and union to get a collective bargaining agreement in place with a non-binding process." A league source yesterday said, "I don't think this is going to get anywhere. They're both doing it to look like they're trying to get something done. It hasn't worked in any other sport, why would it work here?" Garrioch writes what is "frustrating for a lot of bystanders is the NHL and NHLPA aren't far from a deal and they should be able to resolve this themselves, but neither is willing to move" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/28). Rangers C Brad Richards said, “If the last league quote that is on the table is their best and final offer, I don’t know what a mediator’s going to do. Maybe a mediator can spark something, but I’m not that optimistic about it” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/28). In Pittsburgh, Dave Molinari notes Penguins RW Craig Adams is "cautiously optimistic, at best." Adams yesterday said, "I don't know that it's going to make much of a difference. But, hopefully, it can't hurt" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/28). Penguins C Sidney Crosby: "I don't want to get too excited about any of this. But if this is something that will at least get both sides talking every day, I guess it's a good thing" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/28).

    WHAT'S THE USE? In DC, Stephen Whyno asks, "Will mediators be able to help bring hockey back?" Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts said, “My guess is just based on past history and the tone of the way things are going right now is that this is probably not going to produce a settlement. ... 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.” Whyno notes mediation also was "part of the NFL and NBA lockouts." Roberts said it appeared that the FMCS' involvement in the NFL work stoppage “accomplished almost nothing” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/28). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "In the end, no matter what mediators say or try, only the true willingness of both sides to finally compromise for the final stretch will allow a true breakthrough." Mediation "has a chance only if both parties are open to the process." LeBrun: "On that, I’m not fully convinced" (ESPN.com, 11/27). ESPN.com's Lester Munson wrote, "The fact that mediation, decertification and litigation are at the center of the NHL lockout shows clearly that the owners and the players are staring into the abyss of the loss of another season." There may be "some hope" for results from the mediation attempts this week in DC. But the "real reason the owners and the players are participating in the mediation is that they could not possibly have refused to participate." There is "no quicker way to become the bad guy in a dispute than to refuse to participate in mediation" (ESPN.com, 11/27).

    BACK UP PLANS: Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson yesterday said, "Every player is pissed off, there’s no question. I think we all feel that this could be avoidable. We love to play. We’d almost do anything to play. But if we’re mad or frustrated, we’re not going to let it dictate negotiations. We just want a fair deal." In Ottawa, Don Brennan notes Alfredsson and other locked-out NHLers "made it clear to Fehr that the union is standing firmly behind him -- which shoots down any suggestions of discontentment" made last week by Capitals D Roman Hamrlik. Alfredsson: "We told him we’re really confident in what he’s doing and feel really good about his leadership. We kind of gave him a feeling that we’re totally behind him.” Alfredsson is "hopeful" input from the FMCS will "help move things along." Alfredsson and his peers "did discuss the possibility of decertifying the union, a long and complicated process which would diminish the league’s powers but potentially wipe out the season." He said, “I’m not saying if we’re doing that or not ... that’s up to the whole membership. (But) that’s one avenue for us to force their hand a bit at something ... it’s pretty much the only avenue to go if we want to do that" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/28). Alfredsson also said that if the lockout "wipes out this season, he'll look to sign with a team in Europe." He said that he would "go to 'Italy or France or somewhere' so he can stay sharp and keep open the possibility of playing for the Senators in 2013-14" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/28).

    IDLE CHATTER? SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote, "By now it should be clear to whoever is still paying attention to this ongoing farce that no one really knows what’s ahead and anyone who is offering a prediction is just guessing." At this point, any "suggestions to help break the stalemate would be useful, but most observers are doubtful they will matter." The mediators "have not been asked to settle the dispute, only make recommendations -- and neither side is obligated to follow them." Hackel: "If you subscribe to the belief that one side isn't interested in agreeing to anything unless it gets its way (and you are free to choose your side here), mediators likely won’t change that" (SI.com, 11/27).

    DAMAGING THE BRAND: In DC, Katie Carrera writes, "As the lockout drags on, fans’ loyalty to their sport is becoming a frayed trust." Of the four major North American sports leagues, the NHL has "lost more games to labor disputes in the past 20 years than any other at 2,120." While hockey is "known for having one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of professional sports, the frequency at which the NHL loses games to labor disputes is enough to dishearten even the diehards." SME Branding Senior Partner Ed O'Hara said, “I don’t know how you come back from a prolonged stoppage a second time because it is unprecedented. Brands are built on promises. In this case, the promised experiences of seeing the greatest athletes in the world. That’s all gone now.” O'Hara believes that given the "current economic climate, along with eroding attention spans and vanishing goodwill ... any approach taken to win back fans this time around will require more than simply thanking them for sticking with the NHL" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/28).

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