At Random

After failing to commit to providing financial assistance to game-night and part-time staff during this COVID-19 crisis Friday and taking some heat for it from local media and fans, the Edmonton Oilers made things right on Saturday – even more quickly than I thought they would. Good on them.

As widely reported yesterday, Tom Anselmi, the OEG president and COO who met with media Friday and said the team was still fact-finding and thinking through what approach to take, delivered the news in a prepared statement. It read:

“The pause of NHL hockey, concerts and events at Rogers Place has hit everyone hard, but it has created an even more difficult situation for our nearly 1,650 part time staff. As a result, we are rolling out an assistance program to ensure their well-being is protected. All part time staff affected by a temporary halt in our operations will receive financial payment to bridge them between their maximum EI benefits and their regular average earnings for remaining regular season games.”

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With players already guaranteed their salaries through the rest of the season, the bottom line is the Oilers stepped up to take measures to ensure employees at the bottom of the pay scale got some help. I was sure they would. As an aside, I had just written an item saying so – it got spiked (wasn’t posted) because of a timeline that unfolded Saturday as quickly as this crisis has.


Jan 28, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the fastest skater event in the 2017 NHL All Star Game skills competition at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The last paragraph of the item read: “The bottom line for me is that it happens, and I believe it will. With 72 hours to think things through – that’s forever with how quickly things have changed during this crisis – I won’t be surprised if the Oilers announced they’ll be doing the “right thing” that we were hoping to hear Friday early this coming week. I’d be stunned if that wasn’t the case.”

That was filed at 12:18.

At 12:29 Baggedmilk was getting ready to post it.
At 12:36 the Oilers released their update.
At 12:39 Zach Laing posted the update.

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Like a game that completely turns around from a win to a loss or vice-versa in the final minute, everything I’d written was destined for the round file the minute the OEG announced their plan. After hitting the send button, I immediately went out to run some errands. I didn’t see the update, or Baggedmilk’s email asking what I wanted to do, until after 2 p.m. By then, everything had changed for the better.


As of right now, the Calgary Flames have no intention of taking financial care of their game-day and part-time employees the way the Oilers have. For a team that’s leaned on its fanbase and city so heavily for financial support in recent years, it’s a bad look. I don’t get it. They sent out the following email:

“Alberta Employment Standards requires that employers provide 24 hours’ notice for cancellation of scheduled shifts. CSEC will pay employees where the notification of cancellation was less than 24 hours. No payment will be made for shifts cancelled with greater than 24 hours’ notice. Effective March 12, 2020, all future games have been suspended and substantially all scheduled hourly shifts have been cancelled.”

I know the Flames are dealing with the loss of former president and CEO Ken King, who passed away Thursday, but I was still surprised they took this approach. How any organization treats its employees, no matter where they fall on the pay scale, says a lot about that organization. Will the Flames re-consider in coming days? I hope so. It’s the right thing to do.


While it’s easy to point a finger and criticize the Flames for what they aren’t doing, let’s be better than that. This whole situation is unsettling and frightening and has a lot of people rattled on so many levels, but we aren’t going to get through it by piling on or going at each other.

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Let’s help each other – family, friends and neighbours – as best we can. There is no playbook for this. Let’s do what we have to do to top come out the other side because it’s going to be difficult enough and life-altering for many without sniping at each other and accentuating the negative. Be smart. Be safe. Be kind.

Previously by Robin Brownlee