Panthers lay off employees, blame 'work stoppage'
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) The Florida Panthers announced the layoffs of an unknown number of staff members Tuesday, only the third full day of the NHL's lockout.
The Panthers are believed to be the NHL's second team to publicly announce layoffs since the league's collective bargaining agreement with its players expired at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday and ushered in the league's fourth work stoppage in the last 20 years.
The Ottawa Senators have already had layoffs and full-time employees have been placed on a reduced work week.
``Due primarily to the NHL work stoppage, but also due to changes and efficiencies in our normal business operations, SSE and the Florida Panthers instituted a number of staff adjustments today including staff reductions,'' Panthers President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Yormark wrote in a statement distributed Tuesday afternoon.
SSE refers to Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns and operates the Panthers.
As of Tuesday, the team listed 149 employees on its staff directory across all platforms, including hockey operations, business operations, arena operations and at the team's training facility.
Jobs were reduced in multiple departments.
``We thank all of those former staff members for their efforts,'' Yormark wrote, adding that the team's human resource department would try to help the former employees with placement into other jobs.
The team declined further comment.
The league could announce the cancellation of preseason games as early as this week, and it would appear that training camps are almost certainly not going to open on time.
A number of teams - those reached by The Associated Press on Monday included Buffalo, Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Washington and Detroit - said they are not planning lockout-related layoffs at this time, though some warned changes could happen depending on how long the work stoppage lasts. Some teams have announced plans regarding policies for season-ticket refunds or other options, and other clubs like plan on reducing salaries for at least their highest-paid employees.
And while no games have yet been cancelled, things like preseason rookie camps - Florida was to be involved in one of those - were taken off schedules long ago.
``There's smart enough people involved in this thing that I don't think it'll take too long,'' Panthers center Stephen Weiss said Friday, at the team's last informal preseason workout before the lockout opened. ``We just have to make sure whatever deal they do agree on, it makes sense for both sides and it will be lasting.''
And despite the layoff news, it's business as usual on some levels for the Panthers. The team was still selling season- and single-game ticket packages on Tuesday, including ones for the team's planned opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 13.
``As a most passionate Florida Panthers fan, I understand how difficult a time this is for all Cats fans and other hockey fans around the NHL,'' Panthers owner Cliff Viner wrote in a blog entry on Sunday. ``While we remain optimistic that our Panthers will open the 2012-13 season as planned on Oct. 13, I also want to assure you that the work stoppage will not deter our organization from fulfilling its responsibilities to our fans and our community.''