Panthers mascot Stanley C. Panther became the first recognizable victim of the NHL lockout.
Not the furry figure itself but rather the performer inside the costume, who was among an undisclosed number of employees laid off by the Panthers on Tuesday, according to a source who works for the team.
The announcement of layoffs came a day after Panthers President and COO Michael Yormark said the organization was proceeding with "business as usual" on the second day of the NHL's fourth work stoppage since 1992 that puts the upcoming season in jeopardy.
In a statement released by the team, Yormark said: "Due primarily to the NHL work stoppage, but also due to changes and efficiencies in our normal business operations, SSE and the Florida Panthers instituted a number of staff adjustments today including staff reductions. We thank all of those former staff members for their efforts, while SSE's human resources department has volunteered to work with these former staff members to assist them in finding new employment."
Panthers spokesman Matt Sacco declined comment on the mascot other than to say that Stanley C. would remain a visible part of the organization. Sacco reiterated Yormark's statement that, "Out of respect for both the former and current staff members, we will have no further comment at this time."
Stanley C. Panther received honorable mention as "Best Mascot" of 2011 by GameOps.com, a sports entertainment website.
The team did not reveal how many employees were let go or from which departments. According to a source with the team, no one under contract in hockey operations was laid off, including coaches, scouts and personnel evaluators. Another source estimated as many as a dozen employees were laid off, and some were told they would be rehired after the lockout.
On Monday, Yormark said he remained hopeful that an agreement would be reached on a new collective bargaining agreement in time for the season to begin on schedule. The Panthers are to open Oct. 13 at the BB&T Center against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We are approaching this as business as usual. We are hopeful that a deal will get done sooner than later. Until we are told otherwise we're focused on Oct. 13," Yormark told the Sun Sentinel on Monday.
The Panthers are continuing to sell tickets for the opener and beyond. On Sunday they launched an "I Love Panthers Hockey" campaign, promising that the entire Panthers staff (more than 100 employees) will make appearances at charitable organizations, schools, rinks and neighborhoods throughout South Florida on Fridays beginning this week to promote the team and assist with various charitable initiatives.
The Panthers aren't the first NHL team to announce layoffs. According to Sports Business Daily, Ottawa Senators employees were given layoff notices weeks ago that would take effect in the event of a lockout, and the Calgary Flames were offering unpaid leave during the lockout.
The Lightning announced Friday that it did not plan immediate staffing changes due to the lockout. Among other teams reportedly not planning layoffs are the Capitals, Bruins, Penguins and Jets.
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