NHL Players Want Federal Mediators to Intercede in Labor Talks

The National Hockey League’s players’ union, whose latest proposal to end a labor dispute was rejected yesterday, said it has asked U.S. federal mediators to rejoin collective-bargaining discussions.

The request, confirmed by union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon, came amid negotiations between the two sides in a New York hotel to try to end a lockout that began Sept. 16 and so far has canceled more than a third of the season. NHL spokesman John Dellapina didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Officials with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service stepped away from the talks after two days last week, saying they had determined that the sides remained too far apart for productive discussions.

Talks ended last night after a one-hour meeting in which the union made an offer that was spurned by the league. No negotiations are scheduled, according to the league website.

“I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during a press conference last night. “We’re going to have to take a deep breath and regroup.”

A group of 18 players and six team owners met during the first two days with league and union officials in an effort to end the 83-day stalemate.

Talking Points

The two sides are arguing over how to split revenue and other issues, including salary arbitration and the length of unrestricted free agency. League revenue grew to $3.3 billion last season, up 50 percent from $2.2 billion in 2003-04. Under the previous agreement, players received 57 percent, or $1.9 billion, of league revenue. The remaining $1.4 billion, or 43 percent, was shared among the league’s 30 team owners. The league offered a 50-50 split in its latest contract proposal.

The dispute has forced the cancellation of more than a third of the NHL’s regular season so far, including the outdoor Winter Classic, plus the All-Star Game.

The owners attending the meeting, according to NHL.com, are Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ron Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHLPA said in a release on its website that the players included Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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