Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild employees taking paycuts, going to 4-day work weeks

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: November 27, 2012 - 3:23 PM

All Wild employees will now feel the effects of an NHL lockout that is 73 days old. 

During an all-staff meeting at 2 p.m. CT, the Wild announced that the roughly 200-person staff will be put on four-day, 32-hour work weeks, Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka told the Star Tribune.
 
That will mean a 20% paycut for almost all employees. In an attempt to lessen the hurt with the holidays coming up, employees won’t see an initial reduction in pay until their first paycheck after Christmas.
 
“Our whole philosophy is we’re all in this together,” Majka said. “We want to keep the staff intact because we still think we can play hockey this year. That’s why we’re announcing no layoffs. It’s an all-for-one thing, and that’s why we’re going to do it this way with everyone feeling it a little bit.”
 
If the lockout continues or eventually results in the cancelation of the 2012-13 season, Majka wouldn't speculate if layoffs could be the next step.
 
“Our philosophy at the moment is we want to keep the staff intact as long as possible,” Majka said. “Some teams have had layoffs. Honestly, we have not had any developed discussions about what we do next. We’re taking this step for today and we’ll have to see what will happen over the next couple months.”
 
Previously, the only Wild employees receiving paycuts were employees making over $70,000 a year. That included mostly executives and higher-compensated employees on the business side and mostly coaches and management on the hockey ops side.
 
Those employees either received a 30% or 35% reduction of their compensation over that $70,000 threshold, sources say.
 
That appears to be changing. All employees will receive at least 20% paycuts across the board, but Majka indicated higher-paid employees are losing a bigger chunk.
 
Just poking around a little bit with other beat writers, Ottawa and Montreal are also on four-day work weeks. All full-time employees of the NHL have been on four-day work weeks since Oct. 1.
 
The Ottawa Sun reported that the Senators laid off 40 employees in September. Florida and Phoenix have laid off employees, and Calgary Flames employees over a certain threshold are taking paycuts. There are others, but in response to a query I sent out, beat writers from Anaheim, Los Angeles, Detroit, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Chicago, New Jersey responded that they've been told the teams they cover have laid nobody off and not reduced any salaries as of yet.  
 
The 2012-13 season was supposed to consist of 44 Wild home games, which includes three preseason games. With games canceled until at least Dec. 15, at the very least, several of those won’t be played. At the very worse, all won’t.
 
Every game not played at Xcel Energy Center means a 500-plus-person staff of ushers, security personnel, concierges, concession workers and others don’t get paid.
 
Every lost home game costs the Wild roughly a $1.1 million gate.
 
Since things went south with negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA, Majka admits there has been an uptick in season-ticket holders calling and asking for immediate refunds. The majority are taking advantage of the 10% interest the Wild is offering season-ticket holders to keep their money in their accounts.
 
Clarification and update: Majka's report was that approximately 10% of season-ticket holders have requested refund options. He said sponsorships have not been greatly affected. Games are being refunded to ticket holders as they are missed.
 
The NHL and NHLPA have agreed to meet with federal mediators beginning Wednesday. The NHL has a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Dec. 5, and the players have begun the process of at least kicking around the decertification of the NHLPA.
 
Wild owner Craig Leipold is one of four NHL owners (Boston, Calgary and Washington) on the league negotiating committee. On July 4, the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million deals.
 
The Wild spent to just below the salary cap ceiling in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and before the lockout ranked second from the salary-cap ceiling heading into the 2012-13 season.

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