NHL, several teams cut employee salaries amid season pause

As the global crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic grows, the hockey world is starting to feel its economic impacts. 

ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported on Tuesday that the NHL will be temporarily cutting the salaries of its league office by 25 percent starting April 1. The league reportedly hopes the salary cuts will help prevent layoffs while the world grapples with the pandemic. 

The season has been paused since March 12 and, despite current plans to let players return to their teams on March 27, it’s unclear if or when it will be able to resume. 

On Monday, the New Jersey Devils became the first NHL team to announce that they’d be reducing pay for employees. The team’s ownership group, which also owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, implemented a 20 percent pay cut for those making over $50,000 and a mandatory four-day work week. Employees were predictably unhappy, however, and the plans were reversed just one day later after a significant backlash.

“Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” owner Josh Harris said in a statement on Tuesday.

“As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20 percent pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries.”

Also on Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens announced that their ownership group, Groupe CH, was temporarily laying off 60 percent of employees starting March 30. A statement on the team’s website said the decision “was necessary given the significant impact the pandemic has had on the sports and entertainment industries.”

Groupe CH has established a $6-million assistance fund that will help pay employees 80 percent of their base salary for the next eight weeks, meaning the layoffs effectively translate to another 20 percent pay cut.

With no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely that more teams will take steps like these in the next few weeks to soften the economic blow of the crisis.

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