One of the most popular questions from fans these days is whether the use of a mediator could help dislodge the stalemate plaguing NHL labor talks.
As such, I reached out to U.S. federal mediator George H. Cohen to seek his opinion on the state of the NHL lockout given his participation in both the NBA and NFL lockouts last year.
Via email, Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, politely declined my interview request. However, he did mention that he had been in contact with both parties in the NHL-NHLPA negotiations.
That certainly piqued my interest.
"No news here," responded NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly via email Thursday. "Consistent with interviews we gave at the end of the summer. We have both separately been in touch with the FMCS at various points during this process. So far, I think we all have been in agreement that we didn't think that the introduction of a mediator into the process was timely or that it would necessarily further the process. That may change at some point, but it hasn't yet."
When contacted, a union spokesman said the NHLPA has had "occasional" contact with the FMCS since July.
NHLPA conference call
The players’ negotiating committee and executive board, plus other players who wanted to join, held another conference call Thursday, one of many they’ve had throughout the labor talks process to update members.
I heard from two players who were on the call. They requested anonymity, but here is their recap of the call:
Player 1 said the call reaffirmed the union's willingness to stick together and hang tough, feeling that NHL is trying to wait and see if players crack.
Player 2 said the overwhelming feeling on the call was that players want NHLPA leadership back in the bargaining room with the NHL to explore what kind of flexibility from the league exists on key issues.
It was expected NHLPA No. 2 man Steve Fehr would reach out to Daly sometime Thursday to see if they could schedule bargaining talks.
We shall see.