Normally this time of year, the spirit of giving is evident in Sabreland and other NHL cities. Salvation Army volunteers ring their bells outside arena doors. Players’ wives sell autographed ornaments in the concourses.
The good deeds have been replaced by the threat of union dissolution and another lost season.
Members of the NHL Players’ Association voted, 706-22, to allow their executive board to file a disclaimer of interest, numerous reports said Friday. Union leaders have until Jan. 2 to decide whether they want to walk away from their role as the representative of the players. If they do, it would leave the NHL without a bargaining partner and open to antitrust lawsuits.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has said such a move could lead to the cancellation of the season. The union declined comment.
The lockout has impacted legions of people since September. Charitable organizations are not exempt, especially the Buffalo Sabres’ foundation.
The foundation’s main fundraisers require hockey. The charity makes money from game-worn jerseys, ticket auctions, road trip parties and in-game raffles, among other things. With hockey gone, so are the fundraisers.
“The NHL lockout has had a significant impact on the fundraising efforts associated with the Buffalo Sabres Foundation,” Cliff Benson, chief development officer of the Sabres and president of the foundation, said in a statement Friday.
One of the most prominent activities for the foundation is its 50-50 raffle. It’s a staple of every home game. A member of the Sabres’ alumni association, which shares in the proceeds, pulls the winning number during the third period in First Niagara Center. The lucky fan usually walks away with about $5,000, while another $5,000 goes into foundation coffers.
Even if the NHL returns in mid-January, teams will likely play just 48 of their usual 82 games. That’s at least $170,000 gone because of the missing 50-50s.
The foundation’s signature fundraiser is its “Aces and Blades” casino night, which typically raises more than $100,000. It features Sabres players acting as dealers, but teams are essentially prohibited from speaking with players during the lockout so the event can’t be scheduled.
Unique to Christmastime is the annual ornament sale. The signed decorations sell for $20 and can bring $20,000 to the foundation. There’s no way to recoup those lost funds.
The foundation’s revenues totaled nearly $1.8 million from 2007 to 2010, an average of almost $450,000 per year, according to forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. With so many fundraisers absent, it’s unlikely they’ll match previous incomes.
The Sabres said year-to-date totals were unavailable.
The foundation donates funds to variety of groups, including veteran organizations, underprivileged youths, local hospitals and physically challenged individuals.
“Fortunately, we’ve still been able to honor all the financial commitments the board has made to the various area groups this year,” Benson said. “In addition, the foundation still has been able to help groups in need as was evidenced this week with the 3,500 hygiene kits we provided to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.”