While discussions between league and player officials continue to lag, the NHL's pending lockout is already taking a toll on the Calgary Flames' front office.
Informed by the club months ago that a mid-September player lockout will force full-time employees to move from a five-day work week to a three-day work week with a matching 40% reduction in pay, several staff members have already left in search of greater job security.
"We've lost some good people and we'll have to deal with the consequences of that," said Flames president and CEO Ken King.
"Because of the uncertainty, some have taken jobs that wouldn't otherwise consider it."
With the high of the team's playoff run now a distant memory, employees say the main topic of conversation at the club's Saddledome office revolves around the uncertainty they all face.
"It's definitely top of mind for everyone," said one nervous employee.
"We've already lost a lot of good people in customer service, food service, finance ... almost every department. People in junior positions are going to go waitress on the other two days of the week to help make up the 40% cut in pay."
While frustrated by their predicament, many full-time employees are full of praise for the way King has handled the inevitable labour stoppage sure to follow the collective bargaining agreement's expiration Sept. 15.
King sent a letter to the club's 120 full-time and 1,200 part-time employees five months ago outlining exactly how the club will operate if the puck isn't dropped to start the NHL season in October.
"People were really appreciative of the way we handled everything -- we were way out front on this thing," said King, who may shift duties for several employees towards the Hitmen.
"We most definitely have a contingency plan -- it would be irresponsible for us not to have one.
"Everything is predicated on 'if.' We don't think there will be a labour disruption and we don't want one but these are people's lives. We can't have people waking up on Sept. 16 without a job."
Stressing no one has been laid off in anticipation of the lockout, King has plenty of sympathy for those in his organization trying to figure out if they need to find new employment to make ends meet this fall.
"I'll even help people find jobs because that's the type of organization we are," said King.
"We gave them lots of lead time but it's hard for them to look into the future with all this uncertainty and figure out what's best for them and their families. I want them to have security and we owe it to them to help them find that."
According to those inside the office, he's made good on that promise.
"When they sat down and told everyone, Ken said he'd try to help everyone and that he'd use all his contacts to get them other work," said another employee. "He has helped people already."
While trying hard to maintain a "business as usual" atmosphere, the club is encouraging employees to seek out supplemental sources of income. The club is also hosting a personal financial seminar for staff and is bringing in an expert to help employees prepare their resume. Employees have also been given the option of taking an unpaid leave of absence.
In a letter obtained by the Sun, King told staff members the club is working hard to bring "alternative events" to the 'Dome to keep some part-time employees busy.
He chose not to elaborate yesterday suggesting, "some will be announced as time marches on."
One third of the league's 30 clubs have already handed out pink slips to more than 80 employees, while other teams are choosing not to replace departed workers. More layoffs are expected in other cities including Edmonton where a number of employees quit first. Other clubs like Ottawa are giving employees 80% of their wages but asking them to continue working full time.