The coronavirus pandemic is causing financial uncertainty around the world as every day life comes to a crashing halt. The sports world has taken a massive hit over the past several weeks as professional sports leagues postpone their seasons.
These closures have not only impacted athletes, but lesser paid workers that keep the teams and arenas humming. While some teams and players have stepped up to bridge the gap in revenue during this uncertain time, the NHL has become the first league to temporarily cut the salaries of league office employees by 25 percent starting April 1.
As first reported by ESPN, the NHL will “reduce salaries across the board” in the hope that some cost cutting measures now will prevent future layoffs. At the moment, no one knows exactly when leagues will be able to not just play again, but hold games in front of fans. Teams everywhere are taking a huge financial hit and even players are looking at (relatively skimpy) pay cuts.
Still, the NHL made $5.09 billion in revenue during the 2018-2019 season. That money comes from licensing fees, TV deals, outdoor events, sponsorships and several other revenue streams. Obviously cutting the season short, even for the time being, is going to have a huge impact on net revenue for 2019-2020 but it still seems unfathomable that the league can’t weather this storm by looking out for the people that allow it to function in the first place.
While several NBA and NHL teams and owners have made efforts to keep hourly and part-time workers employed during this time, it’s jarring that the league can’t do the same for its full-time employees. The NHL cutting salaries by a quarter is about on par with what we’ve seen with many other huge companies that generate billions in revenue but still can’t do the right thing by the people that work for them. This isn’t just about cutting salaries for time being, but about valuing a work force enough to make sure that they’re looked after during a time when their paychecks are going to matter the most.
The NHL preaches a lot about how hockey is a family and that sports are about more than just the score, yet when it’s time for some belt-tightening, they decided to jeopardize the livelihoods of their employees.
No one knows how long these closures will last, and we all miss hockey terribly. Now would have been a good time for the NHL to realize that doing the right thing by their workers would have been better than trying to preserve their bottom line.