Six Wild employees might lose jobs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With no resolution to a labor standoff between
the NHL and its players in sight, the Minnesota Wild's parent
company has started preparing for a handful of layoffs.

Minnesota Sports & Entertainment has met with some of its 225
employees to discuss the layoffs. About six workers could lose
their jobs, and Pam Wheelock, MSE's senior vice president, said
Thursday that nonunion employees at all levels would see an impact
on their wages.

Over the last six weeks, the league and the NHLPA have held
three negotiating sessions which have not brought the two sides any
closer to labor peace. The next talks will take place over two days
next week in Ottawa, then resume Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 in Montreal,
the site of World Cup of Hockey games on those nights.

If a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached by Sept.
15, a season-threatening lockout will be imposed.

Wheelock said more than 97 percent of the company's employees
would be retained during a lockout. Including the Wild's AHL
affiliate, the Houston Aeros, MSE has about 225 full-time
employees, most of whom aren't represented by a union. That means
about six employees or so will face temporary or permanent layoffs.
Wheelock said there was no one category of employees being

"The individual meetings are going on basically as we speak,"
Wheelock said.

As for the wage reductions, Wheelock declined to give specific
numbers, saying only it would affect employees at all levels.

"Not necessarily equally," she added.

A season-long lockout would wipe out about 40 regular-season
home games at Xcel Energy Center, which is operated by MSE.

On average, Wheelock said MSE pays about $7.7 million a year to
rent the Xcel arena, although the number is closer to $7 million
this year. Asked how much a lockout would hamper MSE's ability to
pay the rent, Wheelock said: "We'll make the payments. I think
that's probably all I can say."

Without hockey, the company has been considering ideas to keep
the building operational, MSE and Wild spokesman Bill Robertson
said, although they likely won't generate revenue.

Some of those ideas include open skating for season tickets
holders, town hall meetings, Wild coaching staff clinics and youth
hockey games. In addition, the Xcel Center hosts about 120 non-game
events a year, Wheelock said, and MSE recently purchased a National
Lacrosse League team that will begin play in the arena in December.

"The good news for us is, unlike a lot of other clubs, we are
an organization that recognizes that while hockey is a core part of
our business, we have other parts to our business as well,"
Wheelock said.