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Mediation answer in NHL lockout?

The NHL and NHL Players' Association are turning to mediation in an effort to solve their labour dispute.

With negotiations stalled on a new collective bargaining agreement, the sides have agreed to allow U.S. federal mediators into the process -- something they tried without success on multiple occasions prior to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

"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 labour dispute at the earliest possible date," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday.

The mediation will be non-binding, meaning the sides will not be forced to go along with suggestions or recommendations.

Deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney and commissioner Guy Serota have been assigned to the case, according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Beckenbaugh was acting director of the agency during the NHL's last labour dispute, which saw mediators involved with negotiations just days before commissioner Gary Bettman cancelled the season in February 2005.

The NHL and NHLPA haven't met since last week, when the union tabled a proposal that Bettman said still left the sides "far apart." They are expected to get back together at some point in the coming days.

The league and union have both proposed going to a 50-50 split of revenues throughout the agreement, with the NHL offering $211 million in additional deferred payments to help ease the transition. The NHLPA has asked for $393 million.

There are also a variety of rules relating to player contracts that still need to be sorted out.

George H. Cohen, director of the FMCS, says his organization will not comment on the schedule or status of the talks "until further notice."

The lockout is now in its 11th week and has forced the NHL to cancel all games through Dec. 15.





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