Following Tuesday's NHL GM's conference call, Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun, along with Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli, share the latest on the best case scenario of hockey returning this season, discuss the challenges NHL ice makers face if the league is to play through the summer, and much more.
Gentleman. Understanding that we don't know fully what lies ahead in the next weeks and months, after the GMs' conference call today, is there any better understanding or modelling by the league about the best-case scenario about when they'll be able to play hockey again?
McKenzie: It wasn't on the GMs' call per se today. But, earlier today the National Hockey League did request from each of its member 31 clubs to provide available home dates for the month of August. So as you said, James, nobody knows anything for sure. But what we can start to figure out here, is if we're going to have a playoffs that have 2020 in front of them, there's a real good chance it could be as late as August.
LeBrun: And one item of note on that GM call today according to a couple of GMs I talked with is the league letting them know that the self-quarantine period for clubs was through March 27th, that's going to be extended another 10 days, which, let's be honest, is probably wishful thinking for how much longer this is actually going to go. But nevertheless, another 10 days. And the reason it matters is that, of course, teams are waiting to find out when they feel it's allowed for small group practices to take place in their facilities. Obviously, that's not going to be anytime soon here.
If we're lucky enough, and I think we're at the point where we can say lucky enough, to get summer hockey, would the ice be an issue? How does the NHL deal with hockey in July and August?
LeBrun: It's a great question. What I could find out today is that if the league hasn't done so already, if they do ask their ice supervisors about this, the answer, from a guy like Dan Craig, for example , I think is going to be yes we can pull this off. But it will require a lot more diligence. For starters, it's going to cost more money. I mean, it's going to put a stress on those buildings in terms of refrigeration and obviously, air conditioning in the heat of summer to pull this off. It's going to take a lot more diligence, a lot more supervision from league officials. But at the end of the day, the answer is very simply yes, the NHL can do this in July and August as far as keeping the ice going.
Seravalli: You can bet the NHL will do whatever it takes, no matter how hot it is, to get back on the ice. Because what's at stake is a potential revenue loss of north of $1 billion if this 2019-20 season does not resume. And so everyone's wondering if there could be some sort of bailout coming in the form of an insurance recovery. Well the NHL does not believe there's going to be any meaningful insurance payout that's on the way. And that affects both the owners and players. Because when you look at it, players are on the hook 50/50 of the revenue split. That also includes losses. So what are the players doing in the meantime to protect themselves? I'm told the NHLPA does not plan to increase escrow withholding in the players' paycheques. The next cheque is due on March 30.
Well, we're already seeing early effects. The NHL rolling back salaries for its own employees 25 per cent to avoid layoffs, what's happening at the club level?
Seravalli: The Montreal Canadiens were one of the teams to announce today plans. They set up a fund that is going to effectively result in a 20 per cent pay cut for most of their employees. So that will result in a net of 80 per cent in take-home pay when it is all said and done. So this is certainly one that could certainly set a precedent around the NHL. The Canadiens do not have plans, I am told, to reverse course on their plan that they set in motion today. Unlike the New Jersey Devils, who walked back their plan and said that all of their employees will be paid in full. This isn't just about the Habs and their money. When you look at the overall business structure here, we're looking at Evenko puts on 1 ,500 shows throughout the year, so that is certainly something that is going to hit the Canadiens and the other teams hard as we move forward in this new economic reality.
McKenzie: If we do get July and August hockey, one legal technicality is going to need to be addressed. And some general managers have brought this up, is the contracts, technically at face value, expire at the end of June. Normally, July 1 is normally the first day of the new hockey year, if you will. If we're playing in July and August, obviously there needs to be some legal situation in terms of extending those contracts and that would also impact work visas for the year for European players.