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SABRES PLAN TO LAY OFF 25 WORKERS

The Buffalo Sabres announced Monday they will lay off employees from several departments if the NHL lockout hasn't been settled by Nov. 30, a highly unlikely scenario.

The Sabres were supposed to be preparing to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Rochester, but managing partner Larry Quinn called an 11 a.m. meeting in HSBC Arena to inform employees of the decision to terminate around 25 people.

The team provided severance packages that included weeks of pay based on years of service and six months of health insurance. Affected employees were given the choice to make Friday their last day and receive credit for unused vacation and sick days in addition to the severance package, or stay through Nov. 30 and receive the severance package only.

There were no guarantees the laid-off employees would be rehired once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, and nobody knows when that will be.

No negotiations between the NHL and the players' union have been scheduled. Both sides have built up considerable war chests to endure a work stoppage that likely will last the entire season and perhaps into next season.

"Generally speaking, it is company policy not to comment publicly on personnel issues," the Sabres stated in a news release. "In this particular case, given the current work stoppage and the concern it has caused our fans, we regretfully confirm the organization (has) informed approximately 25 employees they would be laid off effective the end of November. These layoffs will be implemented only if there is no resolution to the current labor situation between the NHL and the NHL Players Association.

"It is important to note this date was selected by the organization so the affected employees have ample time to consider alternative employment opportunities. This decision was made by the Sabres in response to the current uncertainty."

The Sabres didn't reveal whether additional cuts would be made later.

Layoffs had been expected for weeks. Quinn said in early September the club would begin to address the issue Friday, when the Sabres were scheduled to open their season and revenues were supposed to start flowing in. So far, 16 regular-season Sabres games have been canceled through Nov. 19.

Some of the impacted employees who spoke to The Buffalo News on condition of anonymity were happy with the way the Sabres handled a delicate situation.

"It was a fair, acceptable severance package," said one affected employee, who joined the Sabres when the Knox family still owned them. "It doesn't leave me feeling bitter."

Said another soon-to-be unemployed worker: "We all knew this was coming. In many ways it was a relief."

The Sabres fired several employees in the spring, but the front office claimed the cuts weren't lockout-related.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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