Players, staff members and the Buffalo Sabres Foundation partnered with Pegula Sports and Entertainment to alleviate some of the financial burden arena workers could experience if games are canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment CEO Kim Pegula announced Saturday afternoon that gameday employees at KeyBank Center in Buffalo and Blue Cross Arena in Rochester will be compensated if the games in which they are scheduled to work are canceled.
KeyBank Center was scheduled to host at least seven events this month, including five Sabres games and two for the Bandits of the National Lacrosse League. At least seven events were impacted at Blue Cross Arena: four Rochester Americans games, two for the NLL's Knighthawks and an All-Elite wrestling event.
Though NHL players are receiving a paycheck during the league's hiatus, part-time arena employees across North America may wait weeks to be paid for lost wages.
"Our gameday employees at the arenas in Buffalo and Rochester will be paid for any lost wages due to regular season game cancellations," Pegula said in a statement. "They are part of our PSE family and even though we expect that the games will be played, we want to assure them they will be paid in the event that is not the case. We are grateful for the gestures from our players, staff and the Buffalo Sabres Foundation who have all offered to step up in a time of need."
Professional, minor and junior sports leagues across North America followed the NBA's lead in suspending play this past week after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coranavirus. Gobert's teammate, Donovan Mitchell, later tested positive.
The Sabres were waiting in their Montreal hotel Thursday afternoon when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a suspension of the season with the hope of resuming at a later date. Players returned to Buffalo amid a cloud of uncertainty and awaited instructions.
The league and NHLPA issued a joint memo Friday in which players were instructed to self-quarantine for six days. All involved hope team facilities can reopen for small-group workouts as early as next week, despite NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying his league will be suspended for at least 30 days.
Bettman told the Associated Press earlier Friday that he was not aware of any player or league employee testing positive for the coronavirus, but he could not say for certain that no one is experiencing symptoms or awaiting test results.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday morning that Carolina Hurricanes broadcaster John Forslund is one of two team employees in self-quarantine after he stayed in Gobert's recently vacated Detroit hotel room.
Switzerland, Finland and Germany were among the 10 European-based hockey leagues to cancel the remainder of their seasons.
NBA and NHL teams, as well as professional athletes across North America, pledged to compensate part-time arena workers for lost wages. PSE monitored the local and global impact of the pandemic, and awaited word on how it may impact the NHL's intent to resume regular season play.
PSE issued the following statement Friday: “As of now, we expect the games to be rescheduled. We are evaluating next steps should the games be canceled.”
Delaware North runs concessions in KeyBank Center, while the Sabres employ part-time workers in security, ticket-takers, ushers and freelance broadcast workers. The arena, like many others across the globe, is shutdown and undergoing sanitization.
The Sabres became the 13th NHL team to announce a plan to compensate part-time arena workers in some way, though some clubs have pledged to pay those employees during the league's hiatus.
The Edmonton Oilers' parent company, Oilers Entertainment Group, announced Saturday the organization was providing an assistance program for its 1,650 part-time staff. Each of those employees will receive financial payment to bridge them between their Emplyoment Insurance -- Canada's temporary financial assistance program -- and their regular average earnings.
The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets, meanwhile, announced they won't be compensating part-time arena employees for lost wages.
Pegula announced employees across all of PSE's companies have been given the option to work from home beginning Monday, with "some very limited exceptions." PSE has also prohibited all business travel, domestic and international, for employees.
"This is an extremely difficult period of time for everyone," Pegula said. "We urge our entire community to follow the CDC guidelines and the direction of our government agencies. These uncertain times have placed a lot of stress on our employees and we want to assure them we are doing whatever we feel is necessary to provide a safe and healthy workplace. We also want to thank our fans for their patience, understanding and support.”