Less than a week after the NHL cancelled one of its spotlight events, the league and its players’ association have been working towards a deal. But with two of the NHL’s biggest money makers now cancelled, it appears the prospects of a season are quickly fading as the NHL is heading towards its second lost season in less than a decade.
Last week, the NHL cancelled its All-Star Game scheduled for Columbus in January along with all regular season contests through Dec. 14. Despite the cancellations, the league and players agreed to federal mediation this week. The mediation quickly turned sour.
The league announced Thursday that after two days of mediated negotiations, the mediators concluded the players and owners were too far apart. Mediators from the United States’ Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service hosted the failed mediation sessions.
“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,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful.”
Donald Fehr, director of the NHL Players’ Association made a similar statement following today’s bargaining session.
“This afternoon, the mediators informed the parties that they did not think it was productive to continue the discussions further today,” Fehr said. “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 fact that federal mediators, some of the in the business, would not remain at the table is quite troubling. Mediation is non-binding and mediators help facilitate the conversation at collective bargaining sessions. Neither side appears to be willing to accept arbitration which would take the power out of both the league and the players as arbitration would be binding.
The last 10 days has been contentious between the groups. Early last week, the NHL asked the players for a proposal. Fehr and the NHLPA obliged only to have their proposal turned down immediately on Wednesday. Two days later, the league cancelled the All-Star Game.
“The gap that remains on the core economic issues is $182 million,” Fehr said. “On Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of cancelled games far exceeds the current economic gap.”
Fehr said last Wednesday that the denial of the NHLPA’s proposal was unnecessary while trying to win the battle of public opinion for the players.
Meanwhile in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday that Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, is working on giving financial assistance to Arena District area businesses affected by the NHL lockout.
The announcement comes on the heels of the beginning of a campaign led by the Columbus Coalition for a Responsive Government to repeal Franklin County’s purchase of Nationwide Arena. Last month, Columbus’ Hollywood Casino opened to the public and roughly one-third of Columbus’ share of the tax revenue is being used for the county to buy the arena.
If the deal is repealed through an election, the odds of Columbus winning the NHL All-Star Game again would become slim and so too would the security of the Blue Jackets staying in Nationwide Arena. It is easy to imagine this group’s petition is bolstered by no hockey being played in Nationwide Arena this year.
J. Justin Boggs, rootshed.com