NEW YORK (AP) — The player who joins the storied list of NHL MVPs in the upcoming shortened season owes at least a share of it to federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who won't lace up a skate but may be the biggest reason the league is back on the ice.
Beckenbaugh orchestrated a frenetic final 48 hours of negotiations that eventually produced a tentative deal between the league and the players early Sunday morning that will end the four-month lockout and save the season.
"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.
The mediator's constant three-block walks over 13 hours Friday between the NHL office and the hotel in which union representatives were staying laid the groundwork, calmed the anger, built the trust, and brought the sides back to the bargaining table for the 16-hour talks that finally led to an agreement.
"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."
Beckenbaugh couldn't bring the 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 this week after also helping back in the 2004-05 NHL lockout that ultimately resulted in a totally lost season.
No one wanted a repeat of that, especially Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr, who became the negative faces for fans who just hoped for hockey to return.
"Hopefully we'll get back to what we used to call business as usual just as fast as we can," Fehr said. "Hopefully within just a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating and not the two of us."
Beckenbaugh went back and forth Friday, talking to union officials and then with NHL executives, and so on and so on. The two sides weren't in the same room talking to each other with only a few days left before Bettman's deadline to make a deal that would allow for a season to be played. But both said progress was being made from afar.
It might have been hard to see and hard to believe, but the proof was clear when a tired and weary Bettman stood side-by-side with the equally exhausted Fehr and announced a tentative deal was in place.
Much earlier in the process, the sides all but agreed that they would split 50-50 all hockey-related revenue — a total that reached a league-record $3.3 billion last season in the final year of a collective bargaining agreement that introduced a salary cap to hockey for the first time in 2005.