It looked as if some real progress might actually be made this week in the ongoing lockout of the National Hockey League
(hey, remember hockey? No? I don't blame you.), as the league and players agreed to mediation.
In case you aren't familiar with the process, mediation is basically when you and your sister were forced by your parents to sit down at the kitchen table, tell each of them your side of the story -- without yelling the word poopface at the other, even once -- and then let them decide whose fault it really was that your mom just had to spend two hours cutting gum out of your sister's hair. And on the night before class pictures, too. It's a good process, really, and usually works. Two sides, one neutral party, everybody gets a say, and can work out their differences.
This particular round lasted two days. And now everyone is refusing to talk again.
The mediating body in question was the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
, or FMCS for short. The first word there is the one that grabs my attention. Federal. As in, federal government. Sure, nothing a mediating body does or says is legally binding, at least in terms of advisement, but still. When the fed is rolling out people to try and get you to stop squabbling, I'm thinking you should probably listen. But not this bunch. Ugh.
From a statement by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (whom I have learned to absolutely despise through this whole process, almost as much as I dislike Gary Bettman):
"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."
So, still far apart, no new progress, no possibility
of new progress through mediation...yes, this is exactly what we were all hoping to hear. I suppose it shouldn't be so surprising to me, though, considering the commissioner's office, after the last proposal the union submitted, essentially said, "This deal is unacceptable. The only deal we will accept is the deal we already proposed." When that's the position of one of the sides, where do you go from there in negotiations?
There is one other possible solution on the horizon: Bettman has suggested a meeting directly between owners and players, with absolutely no league or union officials present. Donald Fehr, the head of the player's association, is considering the idea, but hasn't decided yet whether to go through with it. Personally, unless that meeting takes place in a steel cage with padlocks and no bathrooms or food around, I'm thinking it will probably be useless too.