Canucks Sports & Entertainment announces significant layoffs

Canucks Sports & Entertainment has reportedly laid off up to a quarter of its business operations staff on Wednesday, media reports say.

Tweets by TSN reporter Farhan Lalji said Canucks Sports & Entertainment has issued layoff notices to 50 of its 200 business-ops staff, and that other company members were told more job cuts could be coming if the team cannot return to drawing fans to Rogers Arena under the normal operational business model.

In an e-mail statement, Canucks COO Trent Carroll confirmed the layoffs, attributing the move directly to revenue losses due to COVID-19.

”Like many companies during this pandemic, we have unfortunately been faced with the difficult decision to reduce our business ops workforce through layoffs,” Carroll said. “These are incredibly challenging days for everyone involved... At the same time, we will also ensure we are ready to start up when we get back to normal operations again at Rogers Arena.

“We hope to call back as many of our employees as possible when that time comes.”

There has been speculation about the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on professional sports teams, especially NHL teams such as the Canucks who rely more heavily on ticket sales and gate revenue than leagues with large TV contracts like the NFL, MLB and the NBA.

Some analysts have ventured as far as saying some minor league sports - dependent entirely on fan attendance to drive revenue - may face the prospects of a number of teams folding if they cannot reopen their facilities to paying fans in the coming months. The Vancouver Canadians of Minor League Baseball said it has had to let go two full-time staff members after its entire 2020 season was cancelled.

The CFL, meanwhile, remains in limbo as it seeks $42.5 million from Ottawa to save the upcoming season - which will not start until September at the earliest, likely in a hub city like Winnipeg. Ottawa has indicated that it would like to see the CFL sort out its collective-bargaining agreement negotiations with the CFL Players' Association before any funding consideration would take place.

The NHL has said previously that it is projecting a $1.1-billion loss in revenue due to COVID-19 shutting down live sports attendance and bringing the 2019-2020 season to a halt. The Athletic's senior Canucks writer Thomas Drance said that financial relief is likely one of the main reasons the league decided to restart the season in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto on Aug. 1.

The Vancouver Canucks are scheduled to pay its first and only exhibition game in Edmonton Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Vancouver was at one point the frontrunner to land one of the two hub-city roles in the NHL season relaunch, and there has been some speculation whether winning the bid would have provided the Canucks with a financial boost to stave off some layoffs.

The bid was scuttled when B.C. provincial health regulators disagreed with the NHL's protocols for dealing with potential COVID-19 outbreaks within the players' "bubble" during the season relaunch. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry continues to emphasize that gatherings of 50 or more people are not allowed in B.C., and she adds she doesn't anticipate there being large gatherings being allowed to take place before the end of 2020.

The next NHL season is currently targetting a start date in December.