League, union to meet with mediator

Updated: November 28, 2012, 9:58 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The NHL's stalled labor impasse has gone a new route, with the league and NHL Players' Association agreeing to meet with a mediator.

The NHL and union confirmed to ESPN.com they had accepted an invitation from federal mediators to meet with them. A source said the first meeting will be Wednesday beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George Cohen broke the news Monday.

"While we have no particular level of expectation going into this process, we welcome a new approach in trying to reach a resolution of the ongoing labor dispute at the earliest possible date," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We have no further comment on the upcoming meetings at the current time."

"We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement.

The two sides haven't met in a bargaining session since last Wednesday, when the NHLPA offered a new proposal that was rejected by the league.

"At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices," Cohen said in a statement. "I have assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney, and commissioner Guy Serota to serve as the mediators.''

The mediation announcement was just a few hours old before the FMCS sent out another statement Monday evening saying Serota would no longer be working the case.

"Within one hour after I issued a press release announcing that further negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA would be conducted under the auspices of the FMCS, it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota, one of the mediators I assigned," said Cohen. "Accordingly, in order to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations, I have determined to take immediate action, namely to remove Commissioner Serota from this assignment."

A Twitter account bearing Serota's name allegedly included several tweets with vulgar jokes. Asked via email by ESPN.com Wednesday evening whether his Twitter account had been hacked, Serota responded: "Yes."

The account was deleted for a time Monday before re-appearing without any of the old tweets, but Serota told ESPN.com that the account was re-opened by "someone pretending to be me."

Serota was involved in one of the mediation sessions between the NHL and NHLPA back in 2005 during the last lockout.

Cohen has worked with the players' associations for Major League Baseball, helping end the 1994-95 strike as an outside counsel, and the NBA. He was an adviser to the NHL players' union before joining the FMCS three years ago.

Cohen mediated during the 2010 negotiations in Major League Soccer and 2011 talks in the NFL and NBA, along with this year's dispute between the NFL and its on-field officials.

The league canceled more games Friday, wiping out the NHL All-Star weekend plus all games through Dec. 14.

The players, meanwhile, reacted angrily to the league's rejection of their latest proposal last week, taking to social media to vent their frustration. It has also sparked talk of union decertification, though at this point it's just that -- talk.

The NHLPA has longed hinted that mediation would be a good idea, most recently outside counsel Steve Fehr saying two weeks ago during a conference in Toronto that it would be a good option.

The NHL has been less keen on it, sources tell ESPN.com, until it felt it was warranted.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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