Penguins, valued at $650M, received $4.82M COVID loan

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There are 123 teams among the Big Four North American Men’s Sports Leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL).

Only one of them received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

That team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who received a loan of $4.82 million through the program authorized by the CARES Act.

According to the Small Business Administration’s website, “The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.”

The Post contacted the Penguins, who have a $650 million valuation according to Forbes, and who are owned by the Lemieux Group LP, with Mario Lemieux co-owner/chairman and Ron Burkle co-owner, concerning their application of the loan.

The organization responded immediately.

“With our arena being ordered closed since March and without any event revenue, we requested that our landlord, the Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA), consider a temporary deferral of our annual rent payment due in September. This request was denied,” the Penguins replied.

“Accordingly, we borrowed $4.8M under the CARES Act program in mid-August and applied the funds to our $6.1M September rent payment to the SEA, which was used by the public agency to make its required bond payment.

“The SEA indicated it is facing similar financial difficulties due to the closure of the SEA-owned Convention Center, and we are pleased these funds were used to support an important public agency during these challenging times.”

The Penguins furloughed 40 employees through the summer, though they maintained full health benefits.

“Our furloughs were in effect from June to September,” the organization said. “We brought back staff on Sept. 1 to prepare for next season.”

In unrelated news, Burkle — whose net worth is estimated at $1.4 billion by Forbes — recently purchased Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., for $22 million.

I’m not about to substitute my judgment for those far more knowledgeable about the coronavirus who have deigned it safe for the NHL to operate out of its home cities in the 2020-21 season, which is on target to commence Jan. 13.

But it is counterintuitive, is it not, that the NHL went dark through the spring and early summer and then only resumed play inside two hermitically sealed bubbles in Canada, but is now set to go full bore through a winter in which infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths are generally occurring at a higher rate than when the league deemed it unsafe to play?

Health agencies across the continent have given their blessing to the NHL’s plan, so it is not as if Gary Bettman is running an outlaw operation here. Indeed, the commissioner has been eminently responsible through the pandemic.

And I don’t blame the league. I don’t blame the players. I don’t blame anyone. I do not think this represents a money grab. I think the effort to play 2020-21 is about maintaining the viability of the business moving forward and saving jobs, not for those in uniform, necessarily, but those who operate in support positions across the industry.

But the league and those invested in it should be prepared for a bumpy ride. This is one time neither the NHL nor the NHLPA is in control. Control has been ceded to the virus. Control has been ceded to government health agencies.

Teams might have to, at least temporarily, move out of their home bases if deemed unsafe to play by officials, the way the Sharks have been forced to relocate to Arizona for training camp, which commences Thursday, and the start of the regular season. There might be postponements. And there might be games in which one team must play with diminished capacity due to COVID-19 protocols that were adopted last week. The hockey world should be prepared for the same touches of chaos that struck baseball and football and are now intruding on basketball. More likely than not, uncertainty will become a prime element of the 2020-21 season.

The players have assumed some risk here. That’s understood. But the demographic suggests that the population of athletes — with exceptions for those with underlying conditions — is among the least vulnerable. In fact, anecdotal telling from sources across the industry indicate that a fairly significant number of players contracted the virus through the offseason but recovered without ever showing symptoms. Perhaps that means more players have immunity entering the season.

There is only one certainty approaching the 2020-21 season, and that is uncertainty. The more the hockey world understands and accepts that reality, the better it will be.

I understand that promotional videos and attendant announcements on NHL.com accompanying the announcements of helmet logo deals are elements of more comprehensive sponsorship agreements.

But, sorry, replacing a team logo with a bank’s is hardly worthy of the celebration accorded by the Capitals.

There was a time in my past life as VP of Communications & Advertising for the Devils when I had the responsibility of selling sponsorship programs. So I get all the bells and whistles. But there is no reason to flaunt it.

By the way. As part of my job, I also wrote copy for print ads. In 1985, we were preparing to run a series of newspaper ads for the upcoming season.

My tag line was this: “Devils Hockey, You Won’t Have to Wait 45 Years.”

Unfortunately, team owner John McMullen put the kibosh on it. Why? Well, because the Devils owed the Rangers a significant sum under an oppressive territorial rights deal authorizing the move from Colorado to New Jersey, and flat out had refused to pay it.

I was advised — no, instructed — not to poke the bear.

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