Lockout prompts Wild to cut employees' pay by 20 percent

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 28, 2012 - 7:33 AM

Most of the team's 200-person staff will have their work week reduced to 32 hours, but no layoffs were announced.

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Wild owner Craig Leipold

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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With the NHL lockout in its 12th week and no end in sight, the Wild announced cost- cutting measures during a staff meeting Tuesday.

The vast majority of the 200-person staff was informed that it will begin four-day, 32-hour work weeks that will reduce salaries by 20 percent. In order to alleviate the stress heading into the holiday shopping season, employees won't feel losses for the first time until after Christmas.

"Our whole philosophy is we're all in this together," chief operating officer Matt 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 results in the cancellation of the 2012-13 season, Majka wouldn't speculate whether layoffs would be on the horizon.

"Honestly, we have not had any developed discussions about what we do next," Majka said. "We're taking this step for today, and we'll have to see what will happen over the next couple months."

The objective is to avoid layoffs, which is why Majka said the club decided the fairest thing to do was "difficult" across-the-board pay cuts. Employees for teams in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Columbus and St. Louis have been working four-day weeks for some time, as well as full-time employees at NHL headquarters in New York and Toronto. Ottawa, Florida, Edmonton, Phoenix and St. Louis have laid off employees.

Previously, the only Wild employees to receive cuts in base pay were those making more than $70,000 a year, and that was a 30 or 35 percent reduction to the compensation over that $70,000 threshold. Those employees include executives on the business side and management, coaches, trainers and broadcasters on the hockey operations side.

Some of these employees now will receive pay reductions significantly greater than 20 percent after Christmas.

Wild employees who make parts of their salary off commission have been severely hurt throughout the lockout. In addition, there are 500-plus part-timers who work in the arena during games that have lost significant pay.

That includes security, ushers, concierges and concession workers. The lockout has hampered local businesses, police officers who work overtime, parking venders, bus companies and area hotels. The list goes on and on.

Originally, there were 44 Wild home games scheduled this season. Every home game brings in a gate of roughly $1.1 million.

Majka said there has been an uptick lately in Wild season-ticket holders requesting refund options, but the majority is taking advantage of the 10 percent interest offered by the team to keep money in their accounts. Sponsorships have been largely unaffected, Majka said.

But as the lockout continues, so will damage to the business. Talks broke off again between the NHL and NHL Players' Association last week. The two sides have agreed to meet with federal mediators beginning Wednesday. The NHL's Board of Governors meets Dec. 5, and games have been canceled at least through Dec. 14.

Wild owner Craig Leipold is one of four NHL owners on the NHL's negotiating committee, joining counterparts from Boston, Calgary and Washington. The Wild spent to the salary cap ceiling in three of the past four years and had the second-highest cap hit heading into the 2012-13 season after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million deals July 4. Each received $10 million signing bonuses.

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