Alumni Update – Fall 2020

Never Saw that Coming

By John Doolan

We have all had our lives turned upside down since last February.  I would like to share a few insights from alumni members on how they took on the pandemic and adjusted their lives in an attempt to prevail.

As a retiree, my day-to-day life did not change as drastically as I am sure yours did.  My Social Security and Pension came in as usual.  My wife worked from home, her being home is a plus as she did not have to commute, and I can get on her nerves more often.

In early March, my wife and I did the “Snowstorm” stock up.  TP, bread, milk and other goods to get us through what we hoped would be a safe quarantine.  Our last day out was March 13th.  We hunkered down and cleaned out the freezer and pantry, ordering just once from a grocery delivery service, for the next 12 weeks.  Yes, we did not leave our home for 3 months.  We then began to make trips to grocery shops and an odd trip to other stores for items we needed.  “Cabin Fever” is an understatement, but if you could ask those souls we have lost, I am sure they would change places in a heartbeat. 

Please enjoy the synopsis from 3 members who battled through the lockdown and how their business platform changed.  The third member is still working hockey in Sweden.  His experiences both as far as the team’s struggles and protocols should be an insight into life in Europe as we adjusted ours in North America.  Their inputs were submitted the first week of October.

Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer and Strength Coach who spent 17 years in pro hockey including 8 years in the NHL with the Ducks and Capitals. Orange County, CA

When I left professional sports to open up my own sports performance and rehab facility, I didn’t realize how much there was to learn about running a business. As an Athletic Trainer in the NHL, you run things all the time. You do your normal job, but then have to manage budgets, manage reporting systems, develop protocols, etc. How hard is it to run a business, right? Well, a lot harder than I thought, but still rewarding and happy I did it. Then Covid hit!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy I own my own business, but Covid added another issue to deal with. The good news is we are surviving. I had to take a step back and look at how the business runs and how I can make it better and more profitable. Being shut down for basically six weeks and still working at a limited capacity seven months later gave me some time to re-assess the business and my life to make them better. The biggest thing I committed to was decreasing the amount I work personally. In pro sports, we are used to working hours upon hours a day without days off. I brought that work effort to my business, which helped it grow and become successful, but at what expense? I have a great staff that can more than handle the workload. Having faith in them and utilizing their expertise has allowed me to spend time building the business more as well as streamlining it. It also allows me to enjoy life a little more by having time to do things I usually would not have time for. I have a staff, colleagues, friends and Covid to thank for that. My advice for you is to take this down time and take a step back to re-assess what you are doing and how you can make your life more rewarding and enjoyable while still doing the great job we always do.

Chris also added some of the daily protocols that he has instituted at his facility.  They mirror many that you and your team have probably put in place:

  • Daily staff log in with temperature check and symptom checklist
  • All staff and clients to wash or sanitize hands frequently including before and after each session
  • Masks are to be worn when clients or staff cannot maintain a minimum of 6 feet of social distance
  • No equipment will be shared and all equipment sanitized after use
  • Staff or clients are asked to stay home if they have any symptoms or a fever of 100.4 or above
  • Limit capacity in facility to allow for social distancing

Gus Thorson is Owner/Operator Breakaway Sports Repair, Calgary. Alberta

Around Thursday, March 12, 2020, there was the first-reported positive case of COVID-19 reported by a player in the men’s Rec-League in our facility.  We, as a business, decided that we would stay open through the weekend, and then close temporarily.  All of our staff were laid off effective March 15.

By Monday March 16, the Province of Alberta ordered closure of many business, including all Arenas and sports facilities. Our business income dropped to Zero.  Our rent was deferred for 3 months.

Personally, my family and I quarantined of “Self-Isolated” for fourteen days, because we

worried that I may have had contact with the person(s) that had had positive tests.

Luckily, we all were symptom free.

For the next 3 months I spent time with only my wife and son who still lives at home.  We went walking several times a day, went for drives around the province, played cards and games as a family, played video games and streamed almost every movie and series that Netflix had to offer.  I also learned some new skills.  My son and I mastered home-made baked pretzels, banana bread and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. This was actually a bit of a much needed mental and physical break for me, since I had only had about four days off in the previous 4 months.

Mid-May I asked and received permission from our landlord to offer curb-side repairs and sharpening.  I finally had something to get me out of the house, for a few hours each day.  We advertised on Social Media and began taking appointments May 12th. For the last 2 weeks of May, and the first 11 days of June, we generated under $1000.00 in revenue. It wasn’t much but it was something.

The Province of Alberta mandated that arenas could re-open, under certain precautions and restrictions, on June 12th.  We had prepared for this in advance, and needed only a quick inspection from our landlord and received permission.  We re-opened, with a reduction in our weekly business hours of about 50%. 

All of our staff were either working other jobs, doing online education, or collecting government benefits, so we did not bring any staff back other than myself.  Our revenue for the rest of the month was about 60% of the same month the previous year.

We continued “9 to 5” daily until mid-August, and sales were a bit better.  Revenue for the period was down by about 20%, but things were on the way up.

Mid-August we brought one staff member back, for 40 hours a week.  Business hours were back to about 90% of regular.  Two of the four sheets of ice were opened.  Revenue crept up to about 80% of “normal”.

After Labour Day we were able to re-open to our full regular hours, and all four sheets of ice were “Open”.  All of our staff that wanted to return were re-hired.  Two had taken other full-time employment and we hired one new staff member.

Since then, business has been steady, but not busy.  There is still much uncertainty about what is happening.  Many people are finding other options, or not returning to the rink until things become more “normal”.  Sales are down from previous periods, about 70% of normal.

We are all thankful for the fact that we are healthy, working, and paying our bills.

Rob “Doogie” Flahiff is a trainer with Liksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League.

Here in Sweden, we have one of the most liberal social contact / lock down policies in Europe. We currently have no mask mandate or forced isolation. All guidelines, however are subject to change for better or worse on short notice.

That said, we are soldiering along with social distance guidelines set forth by the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation and pushed hard by our league, the SHL.

These rules are for the most part common sense. If you are not feeling 100% healthy, contact the medical team and immediately start self-isolation until instructed otherwise; plenty of physical distance in dressing rooms, hallways, transportation, etc.; plenty of handwashing and cleanliness. Testing is done on a case-by-case basis. The team just recently received our own quick testing kits and we will see what guidelines are used for those.

A lot of the daily routine is still in place, but one noticeable difference is the game outside of the dressing room. Even though we have liberal social policies for the virus, this does not extend to allowing public gatherings or spectators at matches. We are currently limited to a total of 50 spectators regardless of building capacity.

As a result, a smaller club like ours is surviving through our TV rights and the largess of some sponsors, (including CCM being one of our bigger sponsors). At the current clip, we are losing around 100k USD per night on lost gate / associated revenue.

Everyone in the organization, including the players. have taken a significant pay cut to offset the lost revenues. Things are stretched pretty thin, but we all realize that it could be and still could be much worse. The danger is that if we don’t have a significant improvement in total infection numbers in all of Swedish society, we will not be able to open for more spectators.

We, like the entire world need to work together to get through this mess and stay hopeful for a significant improvement, a functional vaccine, or an outright cure.

Thank you to our Partners!

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