It won't be business as usual until Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow sign on the dotted line, but the Edmonton Oilers are planning for an on-time start to the 2005-06 NHL season.
That preparation will result in August call-backs for office and hockey operations staff who have been laid off during the lockout, setting dates for training camp and launching the annual season-ticket campaign in coming months, Oilers' president Patrick LaForge said yesterday.
"Our plan is based on preparing for the season to start," LaForge said. "We have told all the people who've been laid off, temporarily reassigned or who have left to be prepared to come back starting Aug. 1.
"We're planning as we've been instructed by the owners, and that's to be ready for the launch of the regular season."
While Bettman and Goodenow remain a long way from striking a new collective bargaining agreement, the Oilers and other NHL teams are preparing to get back to business.
And, with the Oilers staff from all departments down from 98 full-time and part-time employees to fewer than 50, gearing up for an October start to the season means back to work for those who've felt the pinch of the lockout. With the team facing the traditional off-season lull in late June and early July, LaForge admits there could actually be another short-term layoff or two, but he's confident the team will be at or near previous staffing levels by the end of August.
"We're planning to get back to a full complement," LaForge said. "Everybody will come back in different stages, from marketing to ticketing to the hockey operations end of things."
Fitness consultant Daryl Duke, one of six employees laid off in February, has moved on to work for a fitness club and has expanded his client base as a personal trainer, but says he'll be back.
"I'll be ready to go," Duke said. "They might not need me until the very end, after there's an agreement, but I'll come back. The change has been as good as a rest. I hope we can get going."
Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson confirmed yesterday that tentative plans for training camp are in place, but he indicated that no specific dates have been finalized.
"We'll be ready to go. You can't do anything else."