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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Tom Anselmi, the new business boss of the Edmonton Oilers, was propped up on Friday the 13th to try to come up with different ways to say nothing.
It’s like every franchise in the league was taking their turn to make public proclamations that NHL was “doing the right thing” by pausing the season until further notice.
Some of the teams like the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets did it Thursday afternoon.
Edmonton sent out a statement featuring a couple of canned quotes from Connor McDavid and Bob Nicholson.
Friday, however, the media was invited to an otherwise dark Rogers Place to interview Anselmi and general manager Ken Holland.
At the last minute, Holland opted out, likely because of ongoing discussions involving the players association and the league and knowing he wouldn’t be able to answer many of the questions.
But that left Anselmi with an opportunity to make a strong statement or two on behalf of the owner and the organization and do the right things in a big way.
Anselmi — the president of business operations and chief operating officer who was saying he’d been in constant contact with Oilers owner Daryl Katz over the last three days — had a great opportunity to play the part of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
A big question involved with the shutdown of the NHL and so many other leagues on March 12, 2020, the day the sports world stopped , was what the fate would be of the part-time staff that would be out of work with no games or concerts for the weeks and maybe months to come.
The NHL players will all be paid while they are being asked to remain in their homes in the 31 NHL cities until further notice, but it’s the Rogers Place ushers, concession stand workers, security staff, cleaning crew and others who perhaps will be hit hardest by the building going dark during the next few weeks or more because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
No Oilers games. No Oil Kings games. No concerts.
“There are going to be hourly employees that aren’t working,” said Cuban. “They get paid by the hour and this was their source of income. We’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s certainly something that’s important to me.”
It would have been the right time and place for Anselmi, on behalf of Katz, to make a similar statement.
But when asked the question he didn’t go there.
What he said: “We’re still thinking through all of that stuff … trying to figure all of that out on the staffing side. We’re talking to all the other teams and we’re talking to the league trying to figure out what everyone else does … We’ve started to do some of the homework in talking to the other teams, so we’re aware of what the Mavericks did, what came out of New York and a couple of other teams. For the most part, nobody has a real plan yet. We’re still sort of thinking through it … But suffice to say we’re still very hopeful that hockey’s coming back and that we’re going to play a lot of playoff hockey this year and get everyone back to work as quickly as possible.”
What he should have said: “We believe it’s important to our customers that we make sure we find a way to look after those people and on behalf of Daryl Katz, we want them to know today that we’re aggressively working on that so they’ll be able to look after their families.”
Asked about Katz, Anselmi said: “Yeah, we’ve been in contact with Daryl several times a day for the last several days. He’s like the rest of us. He’s concerned about the health and welfare of everybody. Fans, players, people in the world. He’s concerned about getting hockey back on track as soon as possible. He’s given us clear autonomy to do what’s right for the business and right for our fans. That’s what we’re doing. We’re talking to him all the time.”
What he should have said: “Daryl believes all employees of the Oilers Entertainment Group are important and wants us to move quickly to ensure they’ll be looked after.”
As for the customers, Anselmi was asked about the March 21 season ticket renewal deadline.
What he said: “We’ll probably end up extending it, although I haven’t talked to Stu McDonald in the last 15 minutes about it. In fact, we were still renewing tickets yesterday. We had a whole pile of renewals come in yesterday, thanks to our fans. We’ve got such great momentum right now both on and off the ice that we will probably do whatever we can to make it as convenient as possible for people to stick with us and be ready for when we get back in business.”
What he should have said: “Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.”
It’s what you do when the objective is to do the right thing.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020