With NHL labor negotiations locked in a stalemate, the two sides have agreed to try a new approach and involve the help of federal mediators in reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.

Before going any further, it’s important to note that the mediation is not binding. The mediators bring a neutral third-party perspective to help advance negotiations, but the two sides are not forced to accept the suggestions.

“The NHLPA has agreed to the addition of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to our ongoing negotiations,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said in a statement. “We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners.”  

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL and NHLPA are expected to meet with mediators Wednesday. It will mark the first formal session between the two sides since the league rejected the union’s most recent proposal on Nov. 21. During the 2004-05 labor negotiations, the NHL and NHLPA met with mediators to no avail.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced the news Monday. Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Director of Mediation Services John Sweeny and Commissioner Guy Serota will serve as mediators.

“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,” FMCS Director George Cohen said in a statement. “At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices.”

Cohen served as a mediator between the NFL and NFL Players Association and NBA and NBA Players Association in 2011 and helped the NFL reach an agreement with its referees earlier this fall.