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Blues to furlough staff, say there's 'no certainty' when games/concerts will return with fans

In addition to the furloughs, the Blues said all other staff and contractors will take a 20% salary reduction

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues will furlough part of the team's full-time staff, according to a letter from President and CEO Chris Zimmerman.

The NHL club will begin implementing furloughs Monday. Zimmerman’s letter did not disclose how many employees would be impacted by the cuts. He said employees temporarily laid off would continue to have health care benefits and will be able to seek financial help through the team’s employee assistance fund.

In addition to the furloughs, the Blues said all other staff and contractors will take a 20% salary reduction.

The Blues said Zimmerman's letter was provided to staff after he met with employees of the team, Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre via video conference Wednesday morning.

“The steps we are taking today will be reviewed regularly as we evaluate our options and opportunities to return to full operations, in compliance with expert counsel and all local guidelines,” Zimmerman said.

The Blues’ decision to enact furloughs comes after the NHL decided March 12 to pause its 2019-2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That decision is estimated to possibly cost the league revenue of between $500 and $1.1 billion, Zimmerman said.

“We have been fighting to manage the impact to our hockey and business staff since the league shutdown began on March 12. Though we have been successful in protecting our staff to date, today we need to initiate plans to help our business weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in our lifetime, we are fighting both a health and economic crisis,” Zimmerman said.

The NHL has not said when it plans to return to play, but Zimmerman said that the league is “exhausting all options to resume the season including evaluating options to bring players back this summer to complete the season and playoffs.” NHL players have been advised to self-quarantine until Thursday. Those guidelines could be extended.

“As social distancing guidelines are expected to remain in place well into the summer months, the most likely opportunity to complete the season would be a scenario where fans would not attend games in the arenas where they are played. This approach would likely require players and teams to travel to a small number of cities and be quarantined during a period to complete the season,” said Zimmerman.

In addition to not hosting games, the Blues said Wednesday they are unsure when they may be able to host fan-attended concerts again at Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre. "Unfortunately, there is no certainty to when we will be able to return to hosting games and concerts with fans, or what that scenario may look like when we reopen," the team said. A number of concerts scheduled for the venues have been postponed and canceled in recent weeks.

The Blues were sitting atop the standings in the Central Division with a record of 42-19-10 when the NHL paused its season in March.

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