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Federal mediators to join NHL lockout talks

WASHINGTON Federal mediators are entering the stalled NHL labor talks, which have led to the first 2 1/2 months of the regular season being canceled.

George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said Monday he had assigned three mediators to assist in negotiations to end the lockout. Cohen said the parties had agreed to use the assistance of the FMCS and that deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney and Commissioner Guy Serota will join the talks.

Cohen has worked with the players' associations for Major League Baseball, helping end the 1994-95 strike as an outside counsel, and the NBA. He was an adviser to the NHL players' union before joining the FMCS three years ago.

Cohen mediated during the 2010 negotiations in Major League Soccer and 2011 talks in the NFL and NBA, along with this year's dispute between the NFL and its on-field officials.

Hockey players and management have not negotiated since last Wednesday. The NHL has canceled more than 34 percent of its regular season, including all games through Dec. 14, the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic and the All-Star weekend scheduled for Jan. 26-27 at Columbus, Ohio.

"I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement," Cohen said in a statement. "Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS's long-standing practice, the agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of the negotiations until further notice."

Meanwhile,'s Brian Stubits reports that players sharply disagree on the direction the NHLPA is taking.

Washington Capitals veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik is among the handful of players who have stepped off the company line of the union recently and expressed his frustration not only with the lockout but the leadership of NHLPA head Donald Fehr. Stubits notes that players in their prime may not see eye to eye with players near the end of their careers.

"It's not a surprise that players who don't have many years left to play would be more willing to accept a worse offer from the league in order to get this lockout lifted and to get back on the ice," Stubits writes. "Whether or not this is Hamrlik's last season in the NHL, it's certainly the last season he'll be making $3.5 million, so each missed pay check is a little more missed money to ride off into the sunset with."