Identifying the most embarrassing whiff of an otherwise stellar Bruins season was previously simple. It was the January night in Philadelphia that Brad Marchand did the hockey equivalent of locking the door and leaving the house without his keys, cinching a 6-5 shootout loss by zooming past the puck on a shootout attempt. Marchand love-tapped the puck; it inched forward on the ice just enough to register as a failed shootout attempt. That was embarrassing.
But Bruins owner and TD Garden proprietor Jeremy Jacobs told Marchand to hold his watered-down beer. The Charles Montgomery Burns of Boston sports resorted to his miserly ways this week. After being the last NHL franchise to release a plan to compensate part-time team and TD Garden game day employees during the COVID-19-necessitated shutdown, Jacobs and his Delaware North company are laying off employees and icing their income.
The Bruins announced Wednesday that, effective April 1, 68 salaried full-time employees would be placed on leave, receiving one week of pay and eight weeks of benefits while 82 full-time salaried employees would receive an unspecified “indefinite salary reduction.” The Bruins brain trust called the freezing of funds “temporary business stabilization measures” for Delaware North, the parent company of the Bruins and the Garden. It’s a euphemism for pad-locking Jacobs’s wallet as long as pucks are on pause.
This came one day after it became public that Delaware North had informed hundreds of part-time Garden ushers that they were laid off because of the suspension of operations, including Bruins and Celtics games.
The 80-year-old Jacobs is clearly one elderly person not willing to sacrifice for the good of the economy. The Pucks Patriarch appears loath to engage in any social distancing with his considerable cash (Forbes lists his net worth at $3.3 billion), even if it’s to help out the little people in a time of economic peril and national crisis. As his hockey clubs used to so often during an earlier, hyper cost-conscious period of his ownership, he’s coming up short and cheaping out when it matters most. Disappointing.
The Bruins have barely done the bare minimum during this crisis. While other teams in the NBA and NHL offered comprehensive plans and dutiful pledges to keep paying arena employees during these unprecedented times, the Bruins remained conspicuously silent until they released a terse and ambiguous statement last Saturday, promising to create a $1.5 million fund for part-time Bruins and Garden employees financially burdened by the coronavirus crisis. There was one considerable caveat. The money would only be released after the final six postponed regular-season home games were officially cancelled.
Translation: You still get nothing for now.
The NHL is one of the leagues that appears to be the most strident about completing its season and awarding the Stanley Cup. TSN in Canada reported that it was not unreasonable that the league could finish its season in September. A final decision on whether the season is salvageable — and when Jacobs must deliver the money he promised — could take weeks, if not months.
In the meantime, this money will sit collecting interest for the Jacobs family and Delaware North, a privately-held concessions behemoth that is one of America’s largest private companies and that Forbes, as of March 25, estimated boasted annual revenues of $3.2 billion. Jacobs is chairman of Delaware North. His son Charlie is the CEO of Delaware North Boston Holdings and runs the Bruins day-to-day.
The elder Jacobs, according to Forbes, woke up on Wednesday as the 478th richest person on a planet with more than 7.5 billion people.
Forget social distancing. How about social responsibility during these trying times? Have you no shame, Mr. Jacobs, turning your back on some of the people of a city you’ve profited off for 4½ decades. Jacobs purchased the Bruins and the old Boston Garden in 1975 for a tidy sum of $10 million. The Spoked-Bs are now valued at $1 billion, according to Forbes, and are the fifth-richest club in the NHL.
The Jacobses literally try to squeeze every last dime out of TD Garden, as evidenced by the uncomfortable, budget airline-worthy seats that Delaware North tried to squeeze into the Garden this year, soliciting complaints from long-time customers who enjoyed more legroom at ancient Fenway Park. Then there is the lucrative Hub on Causeway development on the site of the old Garden.
But there's no money to spare for Bruins or TD Garden workers in this time of despair? Pathetic and insulting.
It really says something that the Jacobs clan remains unbowed by public or peer pressure or even rebukes from the state attorney general, Maura Healey. Wednesday’s announcement came just one day after the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils were pilloried for trying to institute temporary pay cuts of up to 20 percent for employees making more than $50,000 per year. Social media shamed them into reversing course.
The Bruins aren’t even following the lead of the Celtics, their TD Garden tenants and frenemies. The Celtics agreed, in an email on March 18, to advance funds to their game day operations employees for the remaining nine postponed home games, via regular paychecks. There’s no cancellation contingency like with the penurious Bruins, who are proving more stingy than Tuukka Rask.
Jacobs appears impervious to public shaming or bad PR. He should have some money to spare after the Bruins melted down the ice surface at the Garden, rather than pay the energy bill associated with maintaining a vacant sheet during the spring.
If Jacobs doesn't think he owes his employees and the city to do better simply from a civic and ethical standpoint now would be a good time to remind him that his team coughed up the Stanley Cup on home ice last June. The Bruins owe it to this city to step up from an emotional and morale standpoint.
It's not that hard to do the right thing and earn goodwill as a benevolent benefactor. Still, Jacobs is prioritizing staying in the black over providing people a ray of hope. The pucks plutocracy rules with an iron heart.
It should be noted, in the interest of fairness to Jacobs, that Terry and Kim Pegula, the owners of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which operates the Sabres’ KeyBank Center, the Bills’ New Era Field, and Rochester, N.Y.'s Blue Cross Arena, have also stated they’ll wait for the NHL to officially cancel games before compensating employees. They also laid off most of their hospitality workers on March 20, according to The Athletic.
Altruism is apparently unbecoming if you're from Buffalo.
It's of little comfort that the Bruins statement read: "As relayed to our associates today, none of these decisions were reached without difficult and painful deliberations. These measures are intended to be temporary with associate employment and compensation returning once our business resumes to its normal state from this unprecedented stoppage."
You're going to pay people when you have to pay them for their work? How magnanimous.
Like Marchand, Jacobs whiffed badly. The owner’s blunder is going to cost folks a commodity much more valuable than points in the standings — their paychecks.