Delaware North layoffs, cuts not likely to sit well with Bruins fans

Delaware North layoffs, cuts not likely to sit well with Bruins fans

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for the Boston Bruins — and more importantly, it’s been even worse for their employees.

First, the Bruins were lambasted by the Massachusetts Attorney General for being the last team in the NHL to account for any kind of financial assistance for their TD Garden and Bruins employees once the regular season was put on pause by the coronavirus.

Now, Delaware North — the parent company for both TD Garden and the Bruins — is among the first NHL teams to announce sweeping layoffs and cuts to arena and hockey club employees on their payroll.

Delaware North announced that as of April 1, 2020, 68 of their full-time salaried associates will be placed on temporary leave, receiving one week of paid leave and eight weeks of full benefits.

Additionally, as of April 1, 82 of their full-time salaried associates will receive an indefinite salary reduction, while contracted employees obviously were not impacted.

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It’s perhaps easier to say this when it’s not your own money, but there is no defending that kind of move with so many Americans headed for financial peril due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Delaware North released a brief statement addressing the cuts: “As relayed to our associates today, none of these decisions were reached without difficult and painful deliberations. These measures are intended to be temporary with associate employment and compensation returning once our business resumes to its normal state from this unprecedented stoppage.”

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs' net worth has been pinned anywhere from $3-3.75 billion as the head of a Delaware North concessions and service giant that announced company-wide layoffs and reductions on Wednesday as well. Clearly, the business takes a massive hit with no concerts, sporting events or big gatherings happening all this month, next month and perhaps well beyond that due to the social distancing required to combat COVID-19.

Still, the Jacobs family is going to put themselves in the crosshairs for deserved criticism after the New Jersey Devils/Philadelphia 76ers owners were savaged just a couple of days ago for prompting the same kind of cost-cutting measures.

Let’s be honest here.

Jacobs has never been a very popular owner in Boston and was viewed as an NHL Governor unwilling to spend the money needed for his hockey team prior to the NHL instituting a salary cap after the 2003-04 season. This kind of stone-cold business move in the face of nationwide financial stress is going to further disenchant the Boston fan base from the people running the show on Causeway Street.

Maybe this is the only way it could go for Delaware North amidst an unprecedented work stoppage and economic downturn in this country, but they really haven’t done anything over the last few weeks to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps things can return to normal once the coronavirus has come and gone and business gets back to normal at TD Garden, but the owners are doing something — and doing it in a way — that isn’t going to sit well with the fans they count on to fill their seats.

Let's not shed tears for the Bruins getting 'screwed' by NHL playoff format

Let's not shed tears for the Bruins getting 'screwed' by NHL playoff format

It seems like everyone around Boston had the same two thoughts when Gary Bettman announced a return-to-play plan that stated the top four teams in each division would play a round robin to determine their seeding:

1. The Bruins are getting screwed here ...

2. ... but whatever. Just give me sports.

Hard agree on the second one. I watched Phil Mickelson babysit Tom Brady's incompetent ass on the golf course all day Sunday. I'll take anything.

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I can't really get too worked up about No. 1, though. Yes, the Bruins had a lead of six-to-eight points for the Presidents' Trophy with 12 games to play, so while this is of course a disadvantage, I can't feel that badly for them.

For starters, they can still get the No. 1 seed by finishing with at least a tie for the best record during the round robin against Tompa Bay, Washington and Philly.

Here's the other reason: The Bruins are not allowed to complain about playoff logistics ever again after last year.

Do we not remember all that was handed to them last postseason? They avoided the best team in the second round thanks to the Blue Jackets giving the Lightning one drop of adversity. Then, they got to face a team that didn't know its own goaltending situation in the Eastern Conference finals before getting the freaking Blues in the Cup Final.

That they lost was of course an upset/choke/whatever you want to call it, but that they got there? That seemed like a mere formality with the breaks they got.

So while I'm pulling for the Bruins to atone for last postseason, we shouldn't exactly be shedding tears. The road was never going to be as easy as they just had it. It was going to be harder this time no matter what. No matter how they fare in the round robin, they're going to face stiffer competition than they did a year ago, because even with this whacky layoff, no one can possibly expect top teams to fall off immediately the way they did last postseason.

Remember, three of the four first-round matchups in the West last year were upsets, meaning the No. 1, 3 and 4 point-getters in the West were also bounced in the first round. By the time the Bruins got past the Leafs in the first round, they had home ice and lesser opponents the rest of the way.

But back to this year and the now. The Bruins are 3-3-4 combined this season against Tompa, Washington and Philly, netting out to an even 10 points in 10 games. That's the worst record any of these four teams has against the other three. The Lightning are 4-2-2 (1.25 points a game), the Flyers are 5-3-1 (1.22 points a game) and the Capitals are 6-4-0 (1.2 points a game).

So the round robin for seeding will be an extra test that I don't think anyone wanted for the Bruins, but one we'll tolerate because we want hockey back.

And really, it's probably not like anyone thinks they're going to get the No. 4 seed and lose in the following round. It's really just an additional variable that's feared because the Stanley Cup playoffs are already the ultimate anything-can-happen tournament.

But I'll take it. Hockey's trying to come back. We'll all take that. 

Is new format unfair to Bruins? Sure, but hockey is one step closer to returning

Is new format unfair to Bruins? Sure, but hockey is one step closer to returning

The encouraging news is the headline here. Let’s make no mistake about it. The NHL became the first major professional sports league to announce an official format to return to play in North America from the COVID-19 crisis with a 24-team tournament.

The timetable to start the Stanley Cup playoffs is to be determined and they haven’t even decided on the location of any hub cities at this point, so we’re still a long way off from playing any playoff games at all. The hope is that the players will be skating on their own at NHL facilities next month and that training camps will be opened sometime after July 1.

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That is a major step forward in the right direction and an encouraging sign that the NHL will be back this summer. All of that is great news for hockey fans, of course, and an optimistic development when it comes to the subject of returning to some kind of quasi-normalcy at some point over the next handful of months.

“Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans are telling us in overwhelming numbers they want us to complete the season if it all possible. Our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on NBC Sports Network while announcing the return to play format. “I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount. While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so.”

The NHL hopes to test players on a daily basis by the time they get back to playing actual games this summer, and temperature checks, isolation from others away from the rink and proper social distancing sound like they will become the norm for everybody involved with putting on the games. 

Bettman went on to say that NHL training camps wouldn’t open prior to July 1 and that means any playoff games wouldn’t begin until late July/early August at the earliest with a postseason that could push into September. So we’ll have a long time to discuss and dissect everything about this proposed return to play for the NHL, and how it’s potentially going to impact the Boston Bruins.

Certainly, the Bruins could complain about being screwed by the new format as they should have been the no-doubt No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They ended the season as the only NHL team with 100 points and they were a lock to win the President’s Trophy while earning home ice during their entire postseason run.

Now the Bruins will be the top Eastern seed at the start of the 24-team tournament, but that could change based on the round-robin warm-up tournament between the B’s, Lightning, Capitals and Flyers while the play-in games are being played. If they theoretically dropped all three games against the other top seeds, then they would drop all the way to the fourth seed and would presumably be relegated to a first round match-up against a loaded, rested Pittsburgh Penguins club.

It would have been defensible if the Bruins had even voted against this format when the NHLPA reps voted on it last week, but instead they accepted it rather than bellyaching like the crybaby Carolina Hurricanes.

The circumstances are quite a turnaround for a Bruins team that was looking at a first round match-up against the No. 8 seed if things had proceeded normally through the end of the regular season. Bettman said it was an inevitable adjustment as the NHL didn’t want to have the top teams sitting around without knocking any rust off prior to engaging in high-intensity playoff games.

“The theory was, and this was something we had discussed with the players, that they didn’t want to have to play a team that came out of the qualifying series [while being] cold,” said Bettman, who indicated the round-robin games would be played with the regular season format and wins/losses would convert to points similar to pool play in the Olympics. “They wanted some real competition. This was our way to do it. This was from the Return to Play Committee that had five players on it, and this made sense to give them a bye, not put them at substantial risk and give them some real competition.”

Don’t expect to hear the Bruins complain about the format, however.

They got every break imaginable last season when each of the No. 1 seeds lost in the first round of the playoffs, had home ice in every round and still ended up losing in Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues last spring. The Bruins know as well as anybody that to hoist the Stanley Cup a hockey team needs to win no matter what format is thrown at them and no matter what opponents they end up facing along the way.

And that’s all that really matters. Rather than complaining about the imperfections or unfairness of a format invented because of the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, the prevailing thought of today should be that hockey took one step closer to happening.