Local NHL worker feels the burn from the lockout

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Matt’s life changed when the clock struck midnight on Sept. 16.

Four months earlier, he had packed up his English degree from the University of Maryland and headed to Florida.

A former goalie on the Terrapins hockey team, Matt, who didn’t want his last name used, was ready to make a splash on the corporate side of the NHL.

The 23-year-old landed a job as a corporate sponsor salesman and by all accounts was on his way.

That all came to a screeching halt when NHL owners and players failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement by the 11:59 p.m. deadline Sept. 15.

Commissioner Gary Bettman instituted the dreaded “L” word: lockout.

The league has since canceled the first two weeks’ worth of regular season games from Oct. 11 to Oct. 24. That accounts for 82 games total.

How to divide an estimated $3 billion in league revenue has become a major sticking point between owners and the players’ union. Under the expired agreement, players took in 57 percent of the revenue.

For employees of NHL franchises, a lockout meant another feared “L” word: layoffs.

Just two days after the work stoppage, Matt was let go by his franchise.

“They called me in and basically told us, ‘Sorry, you’re position’s been cut due to the lockout,'” Matt says.

He also did not want the team he worked for to be revealed, for fear of hurting his chances of being rehired.

Matt watched as other coworkers were let go that day, one by one, before him. He says he was prepared, but his meeting still wasn’t comfortable.

“My boss was not informed in advance that I was going to be laid off,” Matt says. “It was kind of an awkward situation for both of us.”

Since then, the Thomas S. Wooten High School graduate has returned to Rockville, where he grew up. The shell-shocked feeling is now gone, a learning experience gained.

“Hopefully, me, and everyone else, we all get chances to prove ourselves when the lockout ends to come back in and eventually find our way,” Matt says.

Working in the NHL remains his dream. But until the lockout ends, he’s job-hunting in other industries, with a support system of family and friends ready to lend a helping hand.

“Everyone understands it’s a hard situation for us and it’s been great having people try to help us out,” Matt says.

Through it all, Matt remains a hopeful, ever-optimistic twenty-something.

“It’s been a real challenge, but I look at it as there are much worse situations you could be put in, in the world,” Matt says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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