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Oilers President of Business Operations Tom Anselmi speaks to the media

With the NHL season being suspended for the foreseeable future, there are plenty of questions regarding what’s going to happen with the team, its players, and all of the arena staff that are now out of work as a result of the pandemic. This morning, President of Business Operations, Tom Anselmi, spoke to the media and offered up what few details he could on what’s going on with the Edmonton Oilers as a business in the short term and what they’re doing in light of the work stoppage.

Since the press conference jumped around a lot, I decided that I would categorize Anselmi’s responses by topic rather than trying to keep things in order so keep that in mind as you’re reading.

THE SCHEDULE

To kick things off, Anselmi started by saying that the team is doing what most of us are doing right now which is gathering information and trying to figure out what’s happening. He said that the situation is fluid and that updates are coming in constantly which makes putting a plan together a lot more difficult, especially since the season was suspended only 24 hours ago. That said, Anselmi did say that the team is hoping to play games again this season but that they’re taking direction from the league and health officials as to when that may happen.

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I think we can all agree that having hockey back would be a huge boost to morale but when that might happen is by no means clear. Sports is a reprieve from life for a lot of us, and to have that taken away has been tough but we still don’t know when that will be.

 

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It goes without saying that everyone wants hockey to come back, but the problem is that we’ve never really seen anything like this before so we don’t know how long this suspension of play will last — it could realistically go on for months. With so much uncertainty as to when games will resume, the topic of refunding ticket holders is at the front of a lot of fans’ minds right now and Anselmi, once again, had to admit that this process is still fluid and that the team is still putting together a plan.

When asked about what returning to game action might look like, Anselmi obviously couldn’t answer the question because we simply don’t have the information at this time.

Not much else to add here, really.

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Here’s hockey can resume quickly, or as soon as it’s safely possible.

THE PLAYERS

With the players being locked down, a lot of people wanted an update on what life looks like for them and Anselmi admitted that guys are in a holding pattern. Ken Holland was originally supposed to be at this presser but with limited information available, they decided that it would be better to wait until next week for his availability. That said, Anselmi was still asked what’s going on with the boys right now.

When asked about where “home” is for the players while the team/league tries to figure this out, it was confirmed that everyone is here in the city.

ARENA STAFF

Obviously, a major concern right now is what will happen to the arena staff that depends on hockey games and events to make a living, and Anselmi acknowledged that fact but also couldn’t give a concrete answer on what will happen next.

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I know that this probably wasn’t the answer that a lot of folks were looking for and understandably so, but I also get, to a certain extent, why the team will need some time to figure things out. The season just got locked down 24 hours ago so it’s going to take some time for them to work through this, and I really hope the answer that comes out the other end is some kind of support. Hopefully, that happens quickly.

In my heart, I really hope the Oilers will find a way to take care of their arena staff and other folks that have been completely shut down from working but that same thing goes for everyone out there that has been affected. The truth is that businesses are suffering already and it’s going to get worse, but if large corporations can find a way to help as best as they can then it will go a long way for a lot of people. I don’t have an answer here on what that should look like, again I’m not nearly smart enough to figure it out, but I hope that companies like the Oilers can find one soon.

On testing staff for COVID-19, Anselmi said that the team is going to follow protocol and take direction from health authorities.

On whether or not any Oilers management/office staff needed to be tested.

I think this advice goes for all of us: If you’re sick or anywhere even close to being sick, stay home.

When asked about Daryl Katz and whether or not he’s been in contact with the team’s management, Anselmi mentioned that they’re in contact with the owner on a daily basis.

 

EVENTS

Seeing as Rogers Places houses all kinds of events over and above the Edmonton Oilers, Anselmi was asked about what that looks like for the concerts/performances/etc that were scheduled at the arena.

He also mentioned that Rogers Place will go largely unused during this stoppage and that makes me wonder if it might turn into something community-related during this time. We’ve seen public arenas be used to house people in times of crisis before, and I wonder if that might be the case here as well but that’s still a ways down the road and I hope we never get that far…

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THE WRAP…

Given the uncertainty of everything that’s going on in the world right now, I appreciated that Anselmi took some time to hold a press conference and offer up any details that they’re able to provide even if it really wasn’t much. Considering the reality of the situation is littered with question marks and the future of what happens next is entirely unknown, I wasn’t overly surprised that Anselmi was unable to answer many of the questions that reporters had on their minds, but I still appreciated that he was trying to be as transparent as he possibly can be despite not having many answers.

The biggest takeaway from today’s press conference was that this pandemic has really thrown a wrench into every aspect of daily life, and to hear Anselmi unable to provide clear direction on many of the questions is a clear product of that uncertainty. The Edmonton Oilers are a monstrous business that would generally know what’s happening in every avenue of their business (on-ice aside lol) and to have as many “I don’t know”s in a press conference as we got today was an indication of how fluid this situation really is. The reality is that we don’t know what’s going to happen with this stupid virus nor how long we’ll be affected by it, and it will be incredibly important to do what is possible to help those around us. What I did like hearing is that the Oilers are putting thought into their plan and fully acknowledging how this will impact both themselves and the worldwide community at large.

All I can hope for is that that we can get more information in the coming days and weeks and that our lives can return back to normal as quickly as possible, but I’m also smart enough to know that I have no idea what that even means. Hockey aside, there are going to be so many people affected by this pandemic that it’s hard not to think of the human element and how everyone is scrambling for information when not much is readily available. And while I do hope that hockey (and sports in general) comes back to offer some form of mental reprieve, I care more about everyone here reading this now to as safe as possible. We know hockey will come back, but it could be a while before that happens so we have to look out for each other and help each other in any way we can.