The Ottawa Senators say owner Eugene Melnyk has now “personally pledged” to pay part-time arena staff affected by the suspension of the NHL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the team confirms one of its own is the first player in the league to test positive for the virus.
The Senators were the last of Canada’s seven teams to outline plans to help casual workers, saying in a press release late Monday that the needs of employees would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
But in another statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the club said Melnyk has “personally pledged to pay part-time and hourly workers the income they would have otherwise received during the suspension of play due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting state of emergency in Ontario.”
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The Senators had four games left on their home schedule at the Canadian Tire Centre when the NHL went on hiatus last week.
The move by Melnyk also includes non-NHL events at Ottawa’s suburban arena through April 4. Two concerts and a visit by the Harlem Globetrotters were also scrubbed as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Senators added that part-time arena staff working for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville, Ont., would also be paid for lost shifts through the end of the regular-season and the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the CFL’s Redblacks and 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League, has said it will pay workers for three postponed OHL games and any other events that were scheduled at TD Place until at least March 27.
The issue of paying part-time arena workers became a hot topic on social media over the weekend after both the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets said they wouldn’t foot the bill.
Both clubs eventually backtracked in the wake of strong public criticism.
The Toronto Maple Leafs – along with the NBA’s Raptors and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer under the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment banner – pledged Friday to assist workers.
The Vancouver Canucks unveiled plans similar to the Senators’ original program the same day. The Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers followed suit with programs of their own over the weekend before the Flames and Jets changed course.
The Leafs, Raptors, TFC, MLB’s Blue Jays and the CFL’s Argonauts have also created the “Team Toronto Fund” designed to further assist arena, stadium and support staff should they need extra financial assistance due to the outbreak.
Unnamed Sens player tests positive
Meanwhile, an Ottawa Senators player has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first NHLer to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.
The Senators did not name the player when releasing the news Tuesday night.
The team said in a statement that the player has had mild symptoms and is in isolation.
The statement added that the organization is in the process of notifying anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete and is working with team doctors and public health officials
The Senators have asked all of their players to remain isolated and says its medical staff will be monitoring the health of the players.