The NHL owes a big thank you to Scot Beckenbaugh.
Beckenbaugh, deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, was the unsung hero of the labor negotiations, helping resurrect a deal when talks staggered to a crawl last week. He shuttled back and forth to meet separately with each side, then kept them holed up together on an upper floor of the Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan starting at about 1 p.m. Saturday.
In all, he worked more than 30 hours on Friday, Saturday and into the wee hours Sunday to bring the sides back together and keep them focused on the issues.
"I would be remiss if we didn't thank Scot Beckenbaugh for his assistance in the mediation process," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during a brief news conference early Sunday morning.
Beckenbaugh, 59, has a lengthy history as a mediator. He also was part of the 2004-05 NHL talks, Major League Soccer's negotiations in 2010 and NFL and NBA talks the following year. In the late 1990s, he was the lead mediator in a dispute over how to resolve park issues at Voyageurs National Park in northeastern Minnesota.
Beckenbaugh couldn't bring the NHL sides to a deal in late November over two days of talks in New Jersey, and he left the process agreeing that the sides were far apart. But he returned last week.
At times during the final hours of talking, Beckenbaugh waited in the background while the sides continued to work. Negotiations kept going without him, but the bargaining was buoyed because the NHL and the union knew he was there if trouble arose again.
"Scot was great for a number of reasons," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union's negotiating team. "When it got to points you didn't know what to do next, you could go to him and talk to him about it and there was a way to work your ideas through a third party who was really able to help the process."
'A lot of damage was done'
The e-mail sent from the NHL Players' Association early Sunday morning that informed players that a tentative agreement to end the lockout had been reached set off a whirlwind of activity -- and emotions.
"I'm excited to play hockey again, although it's bittersweet because a lot of damage was done to our game," Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said via text. "As players we need to keep showing our fans we care. We might have a long road ahead of us there, but for now it's great to know we'll be back on the ice very soon."
Added Toews: "I'm really happy this is over. A lot of credit goes to the players who were in the bargaining sessions and worked very hard to get a deal done."
The ugly numbers
The lockout was the third since Bettman became commissioner in 1993. The three lockouts together have led to the cancellation of about 2,400 regular-season games, about 10 percent of the games scheduled.