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(Reuters) - The National Hockey League and locked-out players have agreed to allow U.S. federal mediators assist in negotiations when labor talks resume in hopes of ending a costly lockout in time to salvage what is left of the season.
George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), said on Monday he assigned three mediators to help end a lockout that has been in place since mid-September and resulted in the cancellation of 34 percent of the NHL's regular season schedule.
"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."
Deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney and commissioner Guy Serota were assigned to the case, according to the FMCS statement.
While the mediation process is non-binding, which means the NHL and its players do not have to agree to recommendations from mediators, it is hoped fresh ideas might kickstart negotiations that have since reached a stalemate.
The NHL, which last week chopped another two weeks off the regular season schedule along with January's All-Star Weekend, has said the lockout is costing it $18-$20 million a day.
The NHL Players' Association is considering decertification, according to reports, which would allow individual players to take their fight to the courts.
The three mediators are expected to meet with both sides on Wednesday with the league and players at odds over how to split $3.3 billion in hockey related revenue.
While both sides have agreed in principle to a 50-50 split of hockey related revenue, they remain at odds over how they will reach the target.
Owners are demanding an immediate reduction from the 57 percent players received under the previous agreement while the union would like to see the cuts brought in gradually.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue