NHL Lockout, Day 75: Sides Set For Second Straight Day Of Mediation
The NHL and NHLPA yesterday met with a federal mediator "at an undisclosed location for approximately six hours and plan to meet again" today, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Details about the initial meeting "were scarce," but it is "believed both sides spent large amounts of time in separate sessions with a mediator to discuss their bargaining position." The two sides "had not met for a formal negotiation session since last Wednesday, when the NHL rejected the union's latest proposal." Sources said that both sides "are not overly optimistic that an agreement will be reached through mediation" (ESPNNY.com, 11/28). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes it is believed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, along with NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Special Counsel Steve Fehr, "provided briefs for the mediators assigned" by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service. The NHL BOG -- 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 said that the BOG "will try to come up with a 'drop-dead' date to have a meaningful season during the session next week." Garrioch writes unlike '04-05, when the season "wasn't cancelled until late-February, that won't be the case this time." A source said, "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" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/29).
LOW EXPECTATIONS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Rory Boylen wrote, "While we can’t expect any results, immediate or otherwise, from mediation, perhaps the biggest benefit we’ll see is that it will hopefully cut through the nonsense and propaganda." From the start, mediation was "viewed as a last resort in this process, so the fact it's become involved in late-November as the NHLPA tosses around the prospect of blowing it up through decertification seems more troublesome than promising" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/28). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes, "Not even federal mediators can broker a peace." This "won't be settled by one side bending." It will "only be settled by one side breaking" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/29).
OWNERS AGAIN DENY DISSENSION: In Winnipeg, Ed Tait notes the Jets and the NHL "vehemently denied" a report out of Boston yesterday that suggested Bruins Owner and NHL BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs "reprimanded a Jets' representative" at a recent BOG meeting. Daly in an e-mail said the story was a "100 per cent complete and total fabrication." Jets Chair Mark Chipman in a statement said, "I was present throughout all BOG proceedings and can categorically state that no such exchange between Mr. Jacobs and either one of our Alternate Governors -- Patrick Phillips or Kevin Cheveldayoff -- ever took place. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/29). In the original report, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote, "Jets representation at a recent NHL Board of Governors meeting piped up to say it was opposed to engaging in a long, bloody lockout sure to stymie their franchise’s momentum and hurt the game of hockey." Jacobs answered by "reprimanding the Winnipeg representative as one of the 'new kids on the block' and informed him that he would know when he was allowed to speak in the NHL board room." That is the "kind of hawkish, dismissive, bully mentality that's driving the bus for the NHL lockout." It also is "the reason why Bruins fans should hold ... Jacobs personally responsible" (CSNNE.com, 11/28). In Winnipeg, Ted Wyman writes, "Those who follow the situation closely know the NHL governors are ruled by commissioner Gary Bettman and a couple of heavyweights, most notably Jacobs, and they are the ones who are pushing the lockout agenda." The moderate voices and "even the moderately dissenting ones might as well be lepers." Wyman: "Heaven forbid anyone express a concern that this asinine lockout might be affecting some franchises adversely" (WINNIPEG SUN, 11/29).
IN DEFENSE OF THE COMMISH: Hockey HOFer Ted Lindsay yesterday "defended the work" of Bettman during the lockout. Lindsay: "One thing that really has bothered me when I'm reading the paper on all of this is the way they're talking about 'that idiot Bettman,' or any of the other stupid adjectives they've used to describe him. They and the fans and the media need to realize that Bettman is doing his job and fulfilling his responsibility to the owners, just like Don (Fehr) is to the players. The players need to respect and understand that. Don't go bad-mouthing Bettman like that" (ESPN.com, 11/28).