Fundraiser for Flames employees beats target after organization says it won’t pay event staff during COVID-19 pause

WATCH ABOVE: Some recent video of the Calgary Flames.

CALGARY – A fundraiser for hourly workers at the Scotiabank Saddledome has raised over $41,000 after the company that owns the Calgary Flames told hourly staff they wouldn’t receive pay for lost shifts.

Raymond Lau, a former employee at the Saddledome, said he started the fundraiser to help offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers at the venue.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment also owns the Western Hockey League’s Hitmen and the National Lacrosse League’s Roughnecks. Both of those leagues have also suspended their seasons.

Oilers Entertainment Group in Edmonton announced Saturday that they would provide financial assistance to over 1,600 part-time employees who’ll lose shifts. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks have similar initiatives.

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“Whether the Flames, whether they do something right or wrong, I’m always that half-glass full kind of guy. I always try to find the good, the positive out of it,” said Lau. “But when they sent (an email to part-time employees), it was just wrong. Especially when our arch-rival owners are paying (their employees).”

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CSE is also the operator of the arena, which is owned by the City of Calgary.

Flames players Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett, and Zac Rinaldo, along with the wives of TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano, have contributed to the Calgary fundraiser so far. The fundraiser has quadrupled it’s $10,000 goal after just one day.

True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman, who runs the Winnipeg Jets, said at a press conference on Thursday his company’s part-time employees are also out of luck.

The Jets, who also own the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, doubled-down on Chipman’s comments in a letter sent to part-time event staff at Bell MTS Place on Saturday.

“For approximately 97% (of the 1,050 casual and part-time employees at True North venues), income from True North is not their primary source of income,” reads part of the two-page letter. “Rather, it is supplemental income to other full and/or part-time employment, retirement income, or a part-time job while being a full or part-time student.

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“For this group, True North shared that the principle of paying employees when shifts are worked will remain.”

Bell MTS Centre is wholly owned by True North.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2020

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