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TALKING POINTS: Anselmi provides OEG business update

Read the full transcript from President of Business Ops and COO Tom Anselmi providing an update to the media on Friday

by Staff /

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi provided a business update to the media from the Oilers Hall of Fame Room on Friday.

Read the full transcript below.

OEG Vice President of Communications Tim Shipton:

Good morning, everybody. Thanks for being here today, taking some time so we can share an update on where things are at. Certainly unprecedented times for our organization, the city, the country and the world. Very fluid situation for us, and it's not day-by-day - it's a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour situation certainly since the announcement of the pause in the NHL season yesterday.

What I want to do today is provide a business update from Tom Anselmi. We had planned on obviously having (Oilers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager) Ken Holland available as well. We don't have a tonne of updates from a hockey perspective, are still waiting on direction from the NHL, and waiting on more information about access to the ice and to the facilities. So we're going to make Ken available likely early next week on Monday or Tuesday when we have that direction and can provide you guys with a fulsome update.

So that's the plan on that front, so I'm going to turn it over to Tom Anselmi, who's going to make some opening comments and have questions from the floor.

 Video: RAW | Tom Anselmi 03.13.20

President of Business Operations & Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi:

Thanks Tim, and thanks everyone for being here. I don't have a prepared statement, but I'll just share a few thoughts early on here and then open it up for questions.

I'll tell you what, I've been around the NHL a long time and the NBA and this is really unprecedented. We've been immersed in it for probably three days, and it's a changing landscape by the minute. We've been talking to the League on a regular basis, as well as local and provincial health officials trying to really gather information and move forward.

We supported the League's decision to postpone play. We're still very hopeful we're coming back and playing some or all of the balance of the regular season and the playoffs this spring, and we're going to be ready for that. Right now, our focus is really on the health and welfare of our fans, players, staff and being prepared for when hockey returns. But I'll tell you what - Tim talked about Ken - we're still waiting for a lot of direction on the hockey side while the League is working through things with the (National Hockey League Player's Association). I don't have a lot more to tell you on the Business side either to be perfectly honest.

We're learning minute-by-minute here and really trying to move on the fly, but suffice to say it's unprecedented times and I welcome questions to the extent we can provide some answers.

Q: Is the building completely (closed) for now, including concerts, and what will the Oilers be doing for all the part-time workers?

A: As of last night, I think it was Live Nation and AEG both coming out and saying they're suspending any touring. So for all intents and purposes, we're not expecting to have anything going on in the building.

As it relates to our staff, we're still thinking through all of that stuff. I started by saying that the health and welfare of our people, our fans, and players is paramount. We're trying to figure all of that out on the staffing side. We're talking to all the other teams and we're talking to the League trying to figure out what everyone does. But suffice to say, we're still very hopeful that hockey's coming back and that we're going to play a lot of playoff hockey this year and get everyone back to work as quickly as possible.

Q: Season Seat Holders are maybe wondering what happens if games get (removed) off the schedule this year and what happens to the money they've invested in potential playoff tickets. There are some answers you don't have, but what can you tell Season Seat Holders about their investment?

A: What I can tell them is stay tuned, and we're working through all that right now. Our guys were on a call with the League late afternoon yesterday trying to sort through all of that. Of course, it's different for everybody - whether you're a Season Seat Holder, a suite holder, a sponsor, or a single-ticket buyer that bought a game three weeks out from now - we're trying to work through all of that. We got a little bit of background from previous work stoppages on how to manage that, so that's kind of in the pipeline right now. We'll probably have some announcements to make some time in the next couple of days, hopefully.

Q: What were the initial discussions (around the NHL schedule)?

A: There's no plan right now. The League is presumably looking at all kinds of different options, but obviously when you don't have an end date here, it's difficult to predict anything. I'm sure the League's going to look at a variety of different options once we've got some more clarity on when we might come out of this thing at the other end.

Q: Is your intention to test your part-time staff in the next few days?

A: We're taking all our queues from EHS (Emergency Health Services) right now, so we literally just put a fact sheet together today or last night that's going out for all our staff tomorrow on whether they can work from home, what to do if they don't feel good, and all those kinds of things. Whether we need to test people or not, we're going to take direction obviously from the health officials on all of that.

I heard a statistic not too long ago that at some point in time during this process, as many as 50 percent of Canadians might be touched by this virus. So we're going to look to the health officials to tell us 'Do we need to test everybody?', 'Is it when you're symptomatic?'. We just don't know all of that yet.

Q: Was there any kind of push or thought to try and get Wednesday's game against the Winnipeg Jets postponed mid-game?

A: I think we were learning about that half-way through the third period or something, so I don't really think that was at the top of mind. We're looking to the NHL to guide us here. They've got 31 partners to worry about, and we're one of them. We're taking a lot of direction from them right now and support everything they've done so far.

Q: Is there any estimate on the potential loss of revenue?

A: We have a pretty good handle on how our business operates, but that's like asking how long a rope is. Until we know whether we've lost games or not, it's almost an irrelevant exercise.

So our focus right now really is on trying to figure out what we're doing with our fans, our people, and working with the league and giving them the information they need so they can make decisions they need to. Ken and the guys are waiting for all kinds of direction on the players' side, and the League's working through it with the NHLPA. It's just a lot of balls in the air. We're 24 hours into this, so it's still very much a moving target.

Q: The Season Seat Renewal date is on March 21. Are you planning to extend that date?

A: Good question. Probably end up extending it although I haven't talked to Stew (MacDonald) in the last 15 minutes about it. In fact, we were still renewing tickets yesterday. We had a whole pile of renewals come in yesterday, thanks to our fans. We've got such great momentum right now both off the ice and on the ice, that will probably do whatever we can to make it as convenient as possible for people to stick with us and be ready for when we get back in business.

Q: How difficult is the summer scheduling and what's down the road (at Rogers Place)?

A: I guess we'll all be going to work in flip-flops. All the concert folks right now are looking for alternate dates from us. As I said, they've suspended touring. Everything seems to be shifting downstream a little bit here. But hockey takes priority here on all our scheduling. We'll find dates if that ends up where the League ends up being. We'll find the dates. Hockey is good all year long.

Q: What are the players doing during this time?

A: All we know right now is they've been asked to stay home. The guys are waiting for further direction as the League works through that with the NHLPA.

Q: The League has said they're not going to mandate the players be tested and just to follow the medicine if they have symptoms. To your knowledge, are any of your players, to your knowledge, self-quarantined or any of your staff and has anyone been tested?

A: The only thing I know about is we had a couple of people just come back from a holiday in Hawaii. We've asked them and they've agreed to stay home for 14 days because that's the recommendation of AHS. You'll have to ask Kenny on Tuesday about the players. All I know is they've been asked to stay home and refrain from being out.

Q: Are the players stuck here in Edmonton or where they come from?

A: I think it's home here in Edmonton.

Q: I know hockey is secondary at this point but this team has done very well this year and is on the cusp of playoffs. This seems like possibly the worst time for something this to happen. Do you agree?

A: Life throws curveballs, right? In the context of what's going on around the world right now, it's hard to focus on anything other than getting this world healthy again. At the end of the day, we've all been through work stoppages, 9/11, SARS and all these types of things. We'll get through this and we'll come out the other end and be stronger for it. All of us.

The interesting thing, and I heard someone talk about this last night, when 9/11 happened, sports was a real escape for people. The World Series really helped New York heal. Interestingly, we don't have sports to help us with that this time. We're going to have to band together and do it together. I think we will. We're going to end up OK out of this. It's a speed bump, a big speed bump, but we're going to get past it.

Q: Are layoffs in consideration right now?

A: We've got nothing planned right now. Like I said, we're looking at all the different options. But at the same time right now, our focus is this is going to be some short-term pause and we're going to get back to playing hockey. We know we're going to get back to playing hockey but the question is when? So, we're sort of planning for every eventual scenario but we've got nothing cemented right now.

Q: What went through your mind when an NBA player tested positive for COVID-19?

A: I think when we first heard that, that was when the NBA made the decision that they were going to suspend play. All of us suspected that we weren't too far down the road in the NHL. We all saw a bit of a tipping point that happened yesterday where once one of us jumped off a cliff, we all knew it was the right thing. I applaud all these leagues, whether it's Gary Bettman and Adam Silver and their help, or the minor league team in Prince Albert that had to make a tough decision the other day. Hockey Canada and all of us. This is the right thing to do until we get the world back on track.

Q: Connor McDavid missed a little bit of time recently with what was described as flu-like symptoms. Was he tested (for COVID-19)?

A: I don't know that. You'll have to ask Ken (Holland) that next week.

Q: Have you been in communication with (Oilers Owner and Governor) Daryl Katz?

A: Yeah, we've been in contact with Daryl several times a day for the last several days. He's like the rest of us. He's concerned about the health and welfare of everybody. Fans, players, people in the world. He's concerned about getting hockey back on track as soon as possible. He's given us clear autonomy to do what we need to do to do what's right for the business and right for our fans. That's what we're doing. We're talking to him all the time.

Q: Have you gone down the road discussing how you're going to go about handling workers (arena staff, part-time employees) that are missing dates here?

A: We haven't. We've started to do some of the homework in talking to the other teams so we're aware of what the (Dallas) Mavericks said and we're aware of what came out of New York and a couple of other teams. For the most part, nobody has a real plan yet. We're all still sort of thinking through it. But it's important that we do think through it and do what's right by our employees. Everybody in the market in every business, this is going to have global repercussions in the economy around the world. We get that. Whether it's us or the guy that runs the corner store down the street. We're not taking that lightly. We understand we've got employees here that have families and the likes. We've got to think through all that stuff.

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