The search for middle ground
After an initial rush of excitement over the news that federal mediators were stepping in to assist CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, reality set in. It's non-binding. The two sides seem to have moved about as far as they're willing to in key areas. A mediator may not have the power to do what's necessary here.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider's reaction was probably that of the majority.
"Pretty tempered," he said during a Monday evening phone conversation. "Hopefully it'll provide some new perspective that might shed some light on issues that were previously unbridgeable."
Mediator Keith Seat has a wealth of experience mediating a wide range of conflicts, including antitrust cases, and said the three federal mediators assigned to this case should focus first on the deeper interests both sides have rather than on the issues that divide them.Deeper issues like, you know, saving hockey.
"Issues such as, not losing the 2012-13 season. That seems like a huge detriment and a bad thing for everybody connected in hockey and something that would be horrible for the fans as well as the players and owners alike," Seat said Monday. "Try and help people on both sides focus on what the real interests are and how they can be harmonized in ways that find solutions."
Mediation didn't work during the previous lockout, but Seat points out that it came along much later in the process. There's also less separating the two sides right now.
That's one of the reasons many in the hockey community are holding their breath and hoping this works, because the next step is potentially much more damaging. If mediation fails, talk of decertification becomes serious.
So the current mood is tempered, yes. But also hopeful. At least a little.
"If the parties are dead set on not resolving this no matter what, the mediator -- they can do all they can do. Still, the parties have to sign on the dotted line," Seat said. "They're responsible for getting to the settlement or causing them to crash."
What will fresh eyes see after analyzing the latest offers from each side? Here's a look at some of the biggest challenges the federal trio will face:
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