NHL Lockout 2012: Why Federal Mediators Won't Help Save the 2012-2013 NHL Season

Joseph Kuchie@@jkuchieCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

According to ESPN's Katie Strang, federal mediators will return to the negotiation table on Wednesday when the NHL and NHLPA meet to potentially end the 2012 NHL Lockout.

This is the second time mediators have been involved in talks since the lockout began in September. Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney joined the table in November for two days but announced they were unable to bring the sides closer together (h/t USA Today)

While mediation seems to be a step in the right direction (and quite frankly the only thing the players and owners can agree on), past lockouts show that mediation is not the answer to the NHL's problems.

With Donald Fehr representing the players in 1994, Major League Baseball agreed to use federal mediators to potentially help end their strike. Beckenbaugh was at the table with Bud Selig and the MLBPA as well, but after three hours of mediation, the sides did not reach a deal and actually called off talks (h/t New York Times).

The NBA had similar issues with mediators last year when the first two weeks of the season were cancelled. Although there were high hopes of ending the lockout before more games were cancelled, both sides stepped away from the table after mediation and made no movement to meet again, even calling it "the worst day" of meetings (h/t Loop 21).

The NFL had struggles as well, and despite the mediation eventually helping Roger Goodell and the NFLPA get back together, the two sides spent 16 days in mediation without reaching a deal (h/t USA Today).

It seems that the NHL is making progress in getting back to the table, but mediation doesn't necessarily mean a deal is imminent.

Whether it's the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL, mediation seems to be the last resort that never works. MLB and NBA negotiations came to a screeching halt after mediators were brought in and mediation failed to save the 2004-2005 NHL season from being cancelled.

The bright side is that Beckenbaugh and Sweeney both have experience dealing with major sports lockouts and the other three leagues were able to come to an agreement with mediation being used sometime during negotiations.

However, it is not safe to say that the lockout is taking a positive turn simply because mediators are being involved. Back in 2011, The New York Times reminded readers that while federal mediators were involved in the negotiations in the NBA and NFL, they were not credited with helping to bring about settlements (h/t The New York Times).

Let's face it: If mediation was the key to success in negotiations, the 2004-2005 season would have been saved and this year's lockout would have ended in November. The players want federal mediators in the room when they meet with the owners, but the owners are still not exactly keen on bringing more chefs into the kitchen.

Wednesday will either be the step the NHL needs to take to end the lockout or the final straw before the entire season is cancelled. With the clock ticking and a 48-game schedule close to being out the window, mediation will be the final chance for the league and its players to get this right.

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