NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

845403.png

NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

After months of not agreeing on much, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to have a third party come in and help these languishing negotiations.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation service director George H. Cohen said in a statement on Monday that hes had separate, informal discussions with the league and PAs top representatives during these negotiations.

Blackhawks player representative Steve Montador hopes this leads to something.

I think its important to move the process along, Montador said via email. If theres merit in this, that's great. While the mediators have no decision making powers to enforce anyone to do anything, I hope the process is taken seriously and a deal can be struck.

Cohen has assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and director of mediation services John Sweeney to be part of the negotiations. Commissioner Guy Serota was also slated to be one of the mediators, but after a mid-afternoon flap regarding Serota's Twitter feed -- most of which has been deleted -- Cohen removed him from the process.

Cohen said in a statement that "it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota, one of the mediators I assigned. Accordingly, in order to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations, I have determined to take immediate action, namely to remove Commissioner Serota from this assignment.

As for the FMCS' part in any upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, Cohen released this statement:

At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices, Cohens statement continued. Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCSs long-standing practice, the agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule andor the status of negotiations until further notice.

The subject of mediation has come up a few times during these negotiations, which havent yielded much progress over several months.

Could it help? It certainly couldnt hurt. The league and players association last met before Thanksgiving, when the PA came with its latest proposal. But the league rejected it, and on Friday canceled the 2012-13 All-Star game and regular-season games through Dec. 14.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, when asked recently if a mediator would be a good idea, said this:

That was suggested by (NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr) maybe a month ago. Dons focus all along has been getting a fair deal. Its not about saving face, looking good in the media. Its more about the present and getting a deal done thats fair, he said. If it means mediation to get to that, both sides should seriously consider it.

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz figured it would be different at this level.

Yes, Schmaltz had played against some of college’s best en route to that national title with the University of North Dakota. But the pro level is the pro level for a reason.

“It’s a big transition from the college level. Guys are faster, more skilled, and you have less time and space,” he said. “But as camp’s gone on everyone’s gotten a little more comfortable and making more plays and I think we’ll continue that into tonight.”

Schmaltz looked pretty comfortable on Wednesday night, when the Blackhawks lost their preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0. Schmaltz logged 18 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time, including 2:53 on the power play. For the Madison, Wisc., kid who used to come to Blackhawks playoff games, playing that first game at the United Center was “surreal.”

“It was good,” he said after the game. “Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we had some good opportunities. We can get more pucks on net. We let the goalie off a little easy, but hopefully just keep building and keep getting better every day.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Schmaltz has practiced some on the left wing, and that’s where he was in Wednesday night’s scrimmage (with Vinnie Hinostroza centering and Richard Panik on right wing). The Blackhawks always love versatility, but Schmaltz going on the wing is more of a need than an option right now.

“Most of the openings in the organization are on the wing. We’re pretty full down the middle. It’s something we’re trying to see if he can fit in there and play well there,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “And he’s got a nice set of hands, a nice skill set, so hopefully he’ll be comfortable on the wing there.”

Schmaltz has played more right wing than left, but he said the adjustments aren’t so bad.

“Just wall work. Might have to make some backhand plays off the wall but other than that, nothing, really,” Schmaltz said. “Since me and Panik are playing off wing, we’ll get across the blue line, cut across and make plays to each other. It’ll be fun out there.”

Schmaltz held his own in his first game in a Blackhawks uniform. There are high expectations for him entering this season, but he’ll let his game dictate where he ends up.

“If I play my game, play hard, I should put myself in a pretty good spot,” he said. “But I can’t control what decisions they make, so I’ll compete as hard as I can every night and show them what I can do.”

Blackhawks get shut out in preseason opener by Chris Kunitz, Penguins

Blackhawks get shut out in preseason opener by Chris Kunitz, Penguins

Scott Darling stopped 33 of 35 shots but Chris Kunitz scored twice, including the game-winning power-play goal, as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Blackhawks 2-0 in the preseason opener at the United Center.

Tristan Jarry stopped all 30 shots he saw for the Penguins.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks outshot the Penguins 13-3 in the first 20 minutes. But Darling’s quiet first period was followed by a very busy second, when he saw and stopped 23 shots.

The Penguins broke through 2:31 into the third period when Kunitz tipped Trevor Daley’s shot for a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later Kunitz batted home his own rebound for a 2-0 Penguins lead.