Transcript of Luc Robitaille / Kelly Cheeseman conference call

LA Kings Conference Call, March 12, 2020
President, Alternate Governor, Luc Robitaille
Chief Operating Officer, Alternate Governor, Kelly Cheeseman

Luc Robitaille’s opening statement: Thank you, Jeff. First of all, I want to thank everyone for joining the call here today. Obviously this has been an unusual day, to say the least. It’s been challenging. We have a lot of moving parts and a lot of challenges. It’s been tough. We had to talk with our staff and our players. This is obviously unprecedented, and we’ve been trying to get all the answers we could. So, that being said, we appreciate it that you’ve been patient. Sorry that it took us a little longer. … [pause/audio jump]… to answer as many questions as we can at the best of our knowledge. So, I think we can just go ahead and take some questions.

Reporter: Hi, thank you so much, Luc. Without sharing anything that’s obviously proprietary information, I was just wondering if you could share, shine some light on what the communications process was yesterday. I’m sure there was a web of communications with so many different parties all day long, just between city county, state officials, the NHL, hockey operations, and how that timeline worked yesterday.

Luc Robitaille: It’s been ongoing for awhile. I think every team in Los Angeles has been communicating, obviously. With AEG, Dan Beckerman, our CEO’s been talking to a lot of people. There’s been, like I said, a lot of moving parts. As of yesterday, 4 o’clock, it was different, and then it changed last night when we heard about the NBA. That being said, we all knew we had to wait for today to see what the league was going to do. But I would say to you – and Kelly Cheeseman has been really involved on a day-to-day talk – we couldn’t even say ‘day-to-day.’ It’s been hourly. We’ve been in different communications with things as they’ve progressed. We’ve heard from different people.

Reporter: A couple questions – are you intending to have players and staff tested, and if not yet – or maybe they have been already? I was just checking on that, thank you.

Luc Robitaille: No, there hasn’t been talk about having players tested. We’re kind of on a hold pattern. As of now, the season’s on hold. The communication to our players is to say, ‘hey, to a certain degree, quarantine yourself, limit your traveling, take care of your families. But it is kind of what it is now, and follow what the guidelines are that were being given – whether it’s by the government and it’s been passed on by AEG to our team.

Reporter: Hi, I have two questions. First of all, in previous NHL lockouts, as I recall, the management was not allowed to have contact with players. I’m wondering if that is also the case now, and my second question concerns workers like vendors and ushers and ticket-takers and people whose income depends on games, and I’m wondering if AEG has perhaps made any plans or begun to think about making plans to help those folks if this goes on for a long time and badly affects peoples’ finances.

Luc Robitaille: Yeah, I’ll answer the first question. I know Kelly’s been working closely with everyone at AEG regarding your second question. The first question is: we plan to stay in direct communication with our staff and players. We think it’s very important that everybody gets as much information as possible. So, it’s not at all the way it was in the past. This is one thing where we need to take care of each other and we need to make sure that the health of everyone is the number one priority. And, number two, go ahead, Cheese.

Kelly Cheeseman: [Reporter], thanks for that question. I think it’s fair to say that with the change and suspension versus playing in front of different crowds, things kind of got turned on a dime last night. We’re not prepared to answer that question directly at this time, but I can tell you that conversation is happening not only locally, but I think across the nation at this point.

Reporter: Hey guys. How much did the NBA’s decision to suspend its league impact or influence what the NHL and the hockey world did?

Luc Robitaille: I would say ‘I don’t know to what level,’ but I would say ‘pretty significant.’ I mean, you get one player that gets diagnosed with the coronavirus – Gary Bettman’s comment, I wasn’t on the call because we only had our owners on the call, but from hearing it, we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So, the more precaution we can have, we have to do it. I think once a player was diagnosed with it, it kind of moves everything forward a lot quicker. Correct, Cheese?

Kelly Cheeseman: Yeah, I would echo that, [Reporter]. As we all know, the discussion was very much about playing in empty buildings I think across most leagues, and that pivoted on a dime last night. That might be the phrase of the day, ‘pivot on a dime,’ because it definitely changed pretty significantly in a quick order.

Same reporter, follow-up: And then what things can the hockey ops department be doing right now? Like, can draft prep be going on as it normally would or be changed? Can the team still be preparing in case the season does resume at some point down the line? How feasible is it to even carry on the basic day-to-day things that would be happening under normal circumstances?

Luc Robitaille: I think for now, because this is so fresh and new, for the next few days we want everyone to take care of their families and take care of themselves. I think by next week we’re going to have a lot of staff working out of home but everybody’s in this new world. Obviously they can do a lot of work out of home and so forth, and that’ll probably keep going. But I think we’re probably going to address it as we move forward because we’re all in the unknown. But I would say – today is Thursday. We’re probably going to start looking at things by Monday or Tuesday as a group for us.

Same reporter, follow-up: Have you guys given specific timeline for your scouts or people who don’t work in L.A. or maybe are outside the country, what they should be doing?

Luc Robitaille: Yeah, we’ve been proactive with it, [Reporter name]. We basically told them to not fly. That was a few days ago, that if they had to go to a game where they would drive, we were OK with it. But we didn’t let anybody fly and we were telling them to stay home. At this time of the year they’ve done most of their work, anyway, with the scouting. They know who all the kids are, so if they want to watch some games, we’d prefer them watching out of home. But obviously the last probably 24 hours have changed things. I don’t foresee too many of our scouts traveling. I’m not even sure what’s happening with the junior leagues. I haven’t followed up with the Canadian junior leagues, but I have a feeling we’re going to watch them from home for now.

Reporter: This is for Luc or Kelly. Have you guys assessed maybe the financial impact? Obviously we don’t know how many games are going to be delayed or potentially canceled here, but let’s say the impact of one canceled game, how is that going to work on the revenue side, and what kind of insurance or other fail-safes are there in the event that something like this does occur?

Luc Robitaille: Go ahead, Cheese.

Kelly Cheeseman: We won’t comment on specific figures or insurance publicly on that. I think that it’s a seismic impact, and to Luc’s point earlier, I think we’re focused on our staff, our players, our families, and all the people impacted by that. It’s a seismic change for everybody, but that’s not really what it’s about at this point. It’s about the good of mankind.

Same reporter, follow-up: Yeah, of course, and I understand there’s obviously a stronger bottom line than a financial one. Not so much in terms of specific figures, but ‘is there any mitigation of the loss?’ I guess, is my question, because this is obviously something you guys haven’t had to deal with before. Nobody really has.

Kelly Cheeseman: Every situation is completely different. There certainly are cases like that on a case-by-case basis, but there’s nothing specific that we can comment on. Again, I think even in some cases, even the insurance companies are investigating their options. It’s so unprecedented that everybody’s working through this in real time.

Reporter: Luc, has there been any even informal discussions the last two, three weeks that the league would go directly into the playoffs? Or is there an expectation now that the season would pick up from where it stops?

Luc Robitaille: There has been no discussion. I think the only thing that’s been said is what the league’s come out with. They would like to finish the season and start the playoffs, but there’s no timeline and there’s been no other discussion. Yeah, remember, they just announced this a couple hours now, so there’s been nothing else now.

Same reporter, follow-up: I know there have been past situations with lockouts, but do you think the league is [intending] on starting and stopping [on a] dime? I mean, I know it’s a different situation here, but just with lockouts, you guys have picked up pretty quickly once agreements and stuff have been reached.

Luc Robitaille: Yeah, I mean, you hate to say it’s happened a few times, but it has happened in different situations. If there’s a need for the players to start back in a few weeks where they get a week’s training, you would think it’d be OK. I’m not telling you it’s going to be perfect. I think that’s the plan right now but like I said, the only thing is said is ‘right now, let’s stop, and let’s see’ – I think everyone’s going to adjust in the next few weeks.

Reporter: This is a question for both of you. We’ve already heard from some fans, even before last night’s game, that were uncomfortable about going because of the conditions. I was wondering if you had the opportunity to kind of give a message to them or send along or anything you want to pass along. Can these people get refunds, can they get credits towards future tickets, is there any mechanism that they can kind of go through to obtain that?

Kelly Cheeseman: Thanks [reporter name] The answer on that is all of our specific refunding and credit policies are being distributed to all of our various ticket buyers and segments, from season ticket members, to group buyers, to individual buyers, in real time. All situations are completely different. I think, where we want to make sure that our fans know, as we’ve referenced, we’ve been through two work stoppages and the media that’s been with us through those two work stoppages, we very much have always focused on what’s right for the fans first and what’s right for our season-ticket members first. We’ll continue to do that. Again, I want to reiterate, that the change from playing in an empty building to a pause in the season is completely different, as it relates to that, so we’re still adjusting some of those things and circumstances, but we’re always going to look at what’s right for the fans first.

Luc Robitaille: We were getting ready to possibly play in front of an empty building, so we were looking at how we were going to handle it when this first happened. Now, we’re going to go back and just figure out exactly how we’re going to handle it. Like Cheese said, our priority is to make sure we take care of our fans and we do the right thing.

Kelly Cheeseman: Yeah, and if I can add onto that, the current plan, as it relates to games is if they are going to be rescheduled in front of full buildings, the tickets would be reapplied to those games, so we’re still working through the complexity of all that. Of course, if people are uncomfortable with that, we’re going to work through that.

Reporter: Thanks so much. About a one and a half part question, you’ve answered part of this already, but how regularly do you anticipate having those leaguewide conference calls, whether with governors, presidents, or hockey figures, and obviously while worldwide health is paramount, have there been yet any sort of benchmarks the league would need to see to be able to re-open the league, or is this just such a nebulous thing that you just take it day by day?

Luc Robitaille: We’re taking it day-by-day. We’re going to assess, we’re going to have a few calls with the league in the next few days over setting up different things, but we’ve got to take it day-by-day to see what happens.

Kelly Cheeseman: They’ve prepared us for daily calls if that’s needed. I think the commissioner has reiterated to all of us, as we’ve reiterated to all of you as well, this is about the focus on everybody’s health and the safety of all of our employees and players first, and we’ll get back to business next.

Reporter: Luc, what has the league communicated to you as far as practice, team meetings, training and that sort of thing, and if they are putting a moratorium on group activities, are players still going to have the facilities available to skate, workout and that sort of thing on an individual basis, during this time period?

Luc Robitaille: We don’t have any information yet. We asked these questions, and I suspect we’re going to get some answers in the next, I would say the next 24 hours, probably less than that. They were going to work out on their hockey operations and see what players can do and what the recommendations are, but I don’t have anything for you right now.

Reporter: Hey Luc – Today, obviously very different circumstances, but has this reminded you of the feeling of when there have been past work stoppages, and the uncertainty that comes with when the league is stopped and just not really knowing what comes next?

Luc Robitaille: No, this is totally different to me. When we had work stoppages, it’s a little different, you kind of felt it was within our bubble of hockey. Now, it’s the entire world, so this is totally different, yeah.

Reporter: Luc, just expanding on kind of what Jack asked, is it almost, maybe similar to 9/11 when the sports world ended up being shutdown for a week and there was so much uncertainty?

Luc Robitaille: Uhh….I was a player then, we did have uncertainty. I think the uncertainty, I guess it’s different in a way. I don’t know how to answer this one. The uncertainty of not knowing what’s next, it feels different. I think it’s the most important, like I said, there’s a certain part of it that you want to tell everyone that you’re close to, to really take care of themselves and it probably was the same feeling we had at that time. To get close to your family and make sure that you do everything right, except that I think every situation is different to a certain degree. I see what you mean by that, and maybe this is more about life, about how big it is……..I’m not sure I answered your question correctly, sorry about that.

Same reporter, follow-up: That’s okay, because it just seemed like at that time, because of what happened and everything, you had all the sports shutdown for a week and really kind of everything shutdown that you didn’t know what was next.

Luc Robitaille: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right, you didn’t know what was next and we kind of feel the same way right now.

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