VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks front-office staff will take a pay cut and work fewer hours if the NHL lockout proceeds as expected, says the team’s chief operating officer.
Victor de Bonis, also the club’s alternate on the NHL board of governors, said Wednesday all club employees will take a 20 per cent pay reduction and work one less day per week.
“From a staffing perspective, we believe we really have really genuine people working for our company in an intense situation,” he said. “We’ll be going to a four-day work week with everybody, and that’ll happen starting next week if there is a work stoppage.”
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and NHL Players’ Association expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has issued a lockout deadline for that time, but the two sides held talks and exchanged proposals Wednesday.
Until now, said de Bonis, the Canucks have adopted a business-as-usual approach.
“Obviously, as we get closer to Sept. 15, we’ve got a number of contingency plans in place to continue to be very active in the community and support all the various initiatives that we do have,” he said.
He and Canucks players expressed optimism that a new deal can still get done in time. Captain Henrik Sedin said players remain hopeful that the season can begin as scheduled.
“We (the NHLPA) haven’t talked about a lockout ourselves,” said Sedin. “The owners have. We’re preparing as normal.”
Noting he and his brother Daniel have children in school, Henrik said they plan to remain in Vancouver during the lockout and work out as usual in advance of the season. But they will consider playing in Europe if the dispute is extended for a long period.
“We’re still optimistic,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. If nothing happens before the 15th, we’ll keep working to get a deal done. But if it takes a week or two weeks or longer, we’ll see.”
The league wants players to accept a lower share of hockey-related revenues. Defenceman Kevin Bieksa indicated there is more unity among players this time than there was during the lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. Players, who accepted a hard salary cap as part of the expiring deal, are also prepared to dig in their heels for a “tough fight.”
“There was a million holes in the last lockout,” Bieksa said. “We’ve had a couple (union) presidents since, but with Don Fehr, we have a great leader and somebody that’s well informed. He keeps everybody up to date on the issues, and that’s kind of the main difference between this lockout as opposed to last. Every player is involved.”
Bieksa and the others made the comments before teeing off in the club’s annual charity golf tournament, which raises money for the Canucks’ children’s foundation. It was one potentially last show of goodwill between players and management for an extended period.
If the lockout goes ahead as scheduled, the league will not permit management to speak to players until a new collective agreement is reached. Goaltender Cory Schneider and winger Manny Malhotra were the only players still under contract who were absent from the event, because they were attending talks between the union and league in New York.
“People that are in need don’t go away because of what may be happening in the NHL that’s out of everyone’s control,” said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. “It’s a great turnout for us, and we’re very pleased.”