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NHL, players seek help from a mediator

George H. Cohen has had informal meetings with members from both sides.

mary altaffer/associated press

George H. Cohen has had informal meetings with members from both sides.

In desperate need of finding middle ground in stalled negotiations aimed at forging a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association agreed Monday to include at least one federal mediator at their next bargaining session, possibly as early as Wednesday.

The mediation process is non-binding, meaning the sides are not obligated to follow or accept any recommendations rendered by the mediators.

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George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C., said in a statement:

“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.”

Slightly more than an hour after Cohen named Serota to the case, he removed him after it was revealed Serota’s Twitter account had been hacked. Rather than risk potential controversy relating to the hack and Serota’s role in mediation, Cohen felt the prudent move was to remove him.

The sides sought the aid of federal mediators during the NHL’s lockout of 2004-05, but the move did not succeed in forging a deal.

The entire season was scrubbed in January and the parties negotiated a deal without the help of mediators in July 2005.

The NHL lockout, the third in league history, began Sept. 16.

On Friday, the league canceled all regular-season games through Dec. 14 as well as the January All-Star Game scheduled for Columbus, Ohio.

Previously this month, the league also canceled its iconic Winter Classic game, slated for Jan. 1 at the University of Michigan between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.
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