Old CBA more of a loser than lockout: Mlakar

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

If the closed-for-business sign remains up at the Corel Centre this season, the Senators will lose less money than if they had played hockey under the current system. That was the grim message delivered by Senators president Roy Mlakar at a news conference at the Corel Centre yesterday.

Mlakar wouldn't provide any specific figures. But an NHL source said the team would lose $7-10 million US if it doesn't play this season or $12-16 million if it did play under the current economic system.

"We will lose less money by not operating under the current collective bargaining agreement than we would if it remained in place and we played. That's the crux of the problem," Mlakar said on Day 1 of the NHL players' lockout. "This league needs a new system. We can't keep going in the direction that we're going in.

''I'll let the people negotiating the new CBA decide what kind of system we need, but we know we can't go further with the one we have in place. That's the bottom line in all of this."

Yesterday, the Senators sent out letters to their 8,000-plus season-ticket holders informing them that they will receive refunds, with interest, for any games that are cancelled. Only training camp has been postponed at this point in the dispute.

"This is a difficult day for all of us,'' said Mlakar, who along with owner Eugene Melnyk attended the NHL board of governors' meeting in New York on Wednesday. ''You know something is going to happen, but then it does happen and it's difficult for everybody involved."

REDUCED SALARIES

Mlakar also met with the club's 80 remaining employees yesterday and discussed the measures that will occur in coming weeks.

Starting next week, all Senators and Corel Centre employees will take a mandatory two-week vacation. Upon their return, the employees -- including Mlakar -- will have a four-day workweek at a reduced salary until the labour dispute is resolved.

The Senators have already reduced their staff by 20% through layoffs and departures. Mlakar hopes no further reductions will be necessary, but that may depend on how long the dispute continues.

"We're fortunate to have an owner like Eugene Melnyk who is committed to this franchise and wants to make this work," said Mlakar. "What we're hoping to do is find a way to make this viable and keep our employees busy enough so that we don't have to have any more layoffs."

The Corel Centre is expected to host only minor events through the lockout. Cyril Leeder, the COO of the Senators and the arena, said it's difficult to book any major acts because of the uncertainty of the lockout.

In an effort to maintain interest in hockey, the Senators will hold skates for season-ticket and suite holders, minor hockey initiatives and charity events.

"We're committed to doing things for the community and if we don't have anything in the building, this is a way for us to stay involved,'' Leeder said. ''It would probably be more cost-effective for us to take out the ice, but that's not what we want to do."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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