Winter is coming. More specifically, with no meaningful revenue incoming since mid-March and none on the immediate horizon, hockey’s long winter is approaching amid the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 NHL season.
Meetings to slash expenditures, reduce payroll and set internal hockey operations budgets below the salary cap limit have been ongoing for most of the 27 teams in off-season mode.
Six of the seven Canadian clubs have reduced the pay of staff members, including team presidents, general managers and coaches, team and league sources have told TSN. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the lone Canadian club to not reduce pay for staff to date. In all, at least 17 NHL clubs have reduced pay to hockey operations department staff members.
After seeing their pay reduced by 50 per cent – nearly twice more than the next-highest reduction in the league – the Ottawa Senators’ coaching staff appealed to the NHL for relief. With the NHL’s involvement, Senators’ coaches were recently reinstated to full pay retroactive to July 13, the opening date of training camp before the league returned to play in Edmonton and Toronto.
The NHL’s small-market teams are not alone in feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees from the league’s head office have been working in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles at a 25 per cent reduction since April.
Even big-market clubs, Original Six teams like Boston and Chicago, have taken measures to reduce expenses.
The Bruins requested their Jack Adams Award-winning coaching staff forego playoff bonuses to avoid hockey operations salary cuts. In June, the Blackhawks instituted a tiered staff reduction starting at 20 per cent for employees earning more than $200,000, while also eliminating bonuses.
The Buffalo Sabres are the only coaching staff to reject a request for a voluntary pay reduction. Sources indicated that the Sabres staff had pay reduced by 20 per cent from April 1 until July 13, at which point they turned down a subsequent request for a 25 per cent reduction.
Almost universally, NHL coaches – high up on the front office food chain – accepted the reductions without complaint because doing so meant that layoffs would not be necessary for other hockey operations positions, including scouts and analysts.