Federal mediators to oversee NHL labor talks

Federal mediator George Cohen speaks at a news Federal mediator George Cohen speaks at a news conference following the end of talks in the NBA labor negotiations. (Oct. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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The NHL and NHLPA will receive a new perspective on the three-month lockout this week, but whether the stalled negotiations will advance is anybody's guess.

Unable to break the impasse in the labor talks themselves, the NHL and NHLPA Monday agreed to allow federal mediators to begin overseeing the process.

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Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen, who was involved in the recent NFL and NBA labor negotiations, reached out separately to the league and the union, and both agreed to the non-binding intervention, which will begin in either New York or Washington. The sides are to meet separately with the mediators Wednesday.

"With the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices," said Cohen, who has been speaking informally with the two sides, and initially assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney and commissioner Guy Serota to be the mediators.

Cohen later removed Serota because of "issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with [Serota]."

The sides have been deadlocked on a new collective bargaining agreement, triggering the cancellation of 434 games through Dec. 15, the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 and the All-Star Game on Jan. 26.

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The two sides have not bargained since last Wednesday, when a union proposal for a five-year deal was not greeted warmly. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the sides are $182 million apart on honoring current contracts over the term of the deal, but not close on issues such as free agency eligibility.

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