Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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NHL/NHLPA to seek help from federal mediators; Wild player updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: November 26, 2012 - 3:57 PM

In an effort to perhaps breathe some life into a locked-out league in a deep freeze, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has offered to act as a mediator between the NHL and NHL Players' Association.

Mediators can't act to end the lockout, which began Sept. 15 and has cost the 2012-13 season games until at least Dec. 15, as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star Game. They're simply an objective third party that can only offer assistance to try to bridge the two sides together.

In 2004-05, the NHL and NHLPA also met with a mediator from the National Labor Relations Board. As you know, the season was ultimately canceled Feb. 16, 2005.

This latest process will start Wednesday with mediators expected to initially meet with both sides separately.

"The FMCS reached out to both sides independently, and apparently we both agreed that we were prepared to explore the process," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to the Star Tribune. "I have no level of expectation at this point. We'll see how it goes and perhaps something good will come of it."

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued the following statement today on the ongoing labor negotiations between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association:

“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. At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices. I have assigned Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Director of Mediation Services John Sweeney, and Commissioner Guy Serota to serve as the mediators.”

“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.”

The move comes in the midst of the players considering a process that  would decertify the union. The NHL's Board of Governors are also scheduled to meet Dec. 5. The latest talks between the NHL and NHLPA broke off again last week.

Update: The NHLPA's non-statement statement:

NHLPA STATEMENT FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DON FEHR

TORONTO (November 26, 2012) – Don Fehr, National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Executive Director, released the following statement today:

“The NHLPA has agreed to the addition of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to our ongoing negotiations. We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners.”

My take: Can't hurt, but I've got no expectations of this working.

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In Wild news:

-- Mikko Koivu is on his way back to the Twin Cities. Koivu and a couple other Finnish players had to leave their Finnish teams by a certain date due to tax reasons. If the lockout continues, I'd suspect Koivu will return to play for TPS in January. Koivu had five goals and five assists in 10 games.

-- Wild prospect Nick Seeler, who hails from Eden Prairie, was supposed to play the Gophers this weekend for the first time in his career. But the freshman at Nebraska-Omaha, who has been playing so well, was hurt last weekend against Huntsville Alabama and is likely not playing this weekend.

-- In four games for the Ontario Reign of the East Coast Hockey League, Devin Setoguchi has three goals and three assists.

-- Jared Spurgeon has three goals and four assists in 13 games for the SCL Tigers in the Swiss Elite League. He is minus-10 for the worst team in the 12-team league.

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