Welp, it’s finally happened. I’ve complained about the NHL and NHLPA not using a mediator (as the NFL and NBA did) to reach a resolution a number of times on this site. I figured they hadn’t yet because the NHL wouldn’t like what they had to hear, and thus knew it would be pointless to go down that road.

What I didn’t know, is that when the NFL and NBA brought in federal mediators…it didn’t work. Like, at all.

James Mirtle explained today:

[...]Both the NFL and NBA went through it during their lockouts in 2011 and, other than consuming a few days, the non-binding process didn’t solve much. The NBA experience was particularly relevant as it came almost exactly 12 months ago during what was supposed to be the early portion of that league’s regular season.

George Cohen, the mediator in that case, coaxed the league and players into three marathon days of meetings that were kept largely out of the media. The end result, however, wasn’t much progress.

“No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time,” Cohen said at the end of Day 3.

Well, shit. 

Even more interesting, is that the failure of mediation with the other leagues led directly to threats of union decertification, which would be a legal quagmire that neither side seems genuinely interested in getting tangled up in. But if it gets the job done, then well…it could happen. And actually, it’s simply the threat of decertification that may force the NHL’s hand. (If you don’t know what decertification is, let Elliotte Friedman walk you through what it would mean.) If the mediator can’t get it done, it seems like the most obvious course.

Mirtle’s post also contained quotes from Jeffrey Kessler, who was the lead negotiator for the NBAPA, who basically explained that ending the union and going to court would be more productive than using a mediator. He had this to say on decertification:

“The only advice I can give to NHL players, is that it is a very viable option. It’s one which I think greatly benefited players in the NFL and NBA when those decisions were made. They should consider it, along with their other options.”

So that’s where we’re at this morning.

The NHL and NHLPA will resume negotiating tomorrow with the help of Scot Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney, specialists from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There was originally going to be a third gent involved – a one Guy Serota – but he was removed because hockey fans (specifically Tyler Dellow, I believe) found his Twitter account, which was largely used to say obnoxious, embarrassing things.