It appears the fate of the 2012-13 NHL season may be determined this week. But it won't be in Washington.
Negotiators for the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are meeting with federal mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney today at an undisclosed location in New Jersey. The meeting began at about 11 a.m. Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are in attendance but no NHL owners are involved in the latest talks.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the NHL attempted federal mediation with the same mediators on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28. Those talks lasted more than 20 hours but ended without resolution to the lockout, now in its 88th day.
Last week, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he was not interested in the players’ request for mediation.
“It was of no value because of the position of the parties,” Bettman said at the time. “It's an interesting question, because if we were so close [to a deal] why would we need mediation?"
There remain three key issues that separate the owners and players: the length of the CBA [the owners want 10 years, the players want eight]; rules on contract limits [the owners want contract lengths of no more than five years]; and the transition rules that will allow teams over the salary cap to be compliant.
If progress is made today it is possible mediation will continue on Thursday. If the parameters of an agreement can be reached by the end of the week the NHL can begin making plans for an abbreviated season beginning on the final weekend of December. If not, an announcement canceling the entire season could come the first week of January.