Florida Panthers

Panthers owner will continue paying full-time employees throughout COVID-19 shutdown

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The NHL remains on hold indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Florida Panthers’ full-time employees will continue to be paid.

Vincent Viola is committed to continue paying Panthers full-time employees throughout the shutdown, a team spokesperson confirmed Friday. The owner told employees about his plan Friday, Bloomberg reported. The Panthers employ about 230 people.

“The specific directive from ownership was that no employee of the Florida Panthers will suffer economically from the coronavirus,” president Matthew Caldwell told Bloomberg.

The Panthers haven’t played since March 9, a few days before the league suspended play indefinitely March 12. On March 13, Sergei Bobrovsky pledged $100,000 to pay part-time workers at the BB&T Center throughout the stoppage, and his teammates pooled together another $100,000 to match the superstar goaltender. Ownership also pledged an undisclosed amount to cover remaining pay.

The Panthers last played in Sunrise on March 7. So far, three home games have been postponed.

Viola’s pledge to pay his employees comes just days after Josh Harris, who owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, drew criticism for a plan to slash employee pay by 20 percent through June. The owner backed away from the plan Tuesday, less than 24 hours after The New York Times reported on it. The NHL has slashed pay at the league office by 25 percent.

Viola’s net worth is estimated at $3 billion, according to Bloomberg. Viola, who is the founder of market-making firm Virtu Financial, purchased the team in 2013.

There is still no clear indication of when play will resume, but the NHL said Monday it hopes to potentially begin training camps roughly 45 days into the 60-day period the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended to abstain from gatherings of 50 or more people. The 45-day mark would place a return near the end of April, although NHL chief medical officer Willem Meeuwisse acknowledged, “it’s difficult to predict where the pandemic is going and what the timeline will be, but we do expect this is going to get worse before it gets better.”

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