In a season in which the NHL looks more like the Grinch with each passing day, the Lightning are in more of a giving spirit despite the three-month labor stoppage that has shut down the game on ice.
Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik informed all full-time team employees on Friday they will be getting an extended paid vacation.
In an email distributed Friday morning, the Forum will essentially close on Dec. 20 and reopen on Jan. 2 – although the ticket office as well as the team merchandise store will remain open during regular business hours.
During the holiday shutdown, all affected employees – approximately 150 people are currently on staff – will continue to receive their regular wages, with the time off not counting toward their allotted vacation benefits. Of course, if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the league and the players' union before then, the extended time off will be cut short.
"Our ownership believed that an extended paid holiday at this time would be a nice reward for the employees that have worked so hard to transform the organization on and off the ice over the past two years,'' team spokesman Bill Wickett said.
"It isn't often in the sports and entertainment industry today that the pace of business allows for this type of break and we are happy to afford our people the opportunity to share personal time with their loved ones.''
In addition to the time off, employees are being given an extra $75 bonus funded by the Lightning Foundation with the hope it will be used to help those in need.
"We are asking that you use that money to purchase gifts for a holiday charity or perhaps a needy family close to your heart,'' Vinik wrote to employees. "Let's count our collective blessings while helping someone in need.''
All this was possible because of the lockout that has been in place since Sept. 16, after the collective bargaining agreement expired. Vinik addressed the labor situation in his letter.
"I remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement with our great players that will enable the game of hockey to thrive in Tampa Bay for a very long time,'' Vinik wrote. "I believe the new framework will enable us to run a viable business in our world class manner while offering General Manager Steve Yzerman the resources necessary to ensure our team is competitive at the highest levels year-in, year-out.''
Vinik closed out the letter stating, "I hope each and every one of you enjoys the holiday season and remains as optimistic as I do for our future.''