NHL Considers Resuming Play In Empty Arenas
Change is tough. And uncertainty a many-headed monster. Whilst it’s true that restoring at least some form of order and familiarity to the NHL will bring about not only a measure of financial stability in world sports, but also provide a cabin-fever antidote like no other, its also true that the league’s plot to make a sooner-rather-than-later (with apologies to Trump) return, even if not full-swing, will have to jump more than just a few hoops in order to succeed.
This past weekend saw a conference call take place between U.S. President Donald Trump, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and numerous other NHL officials. The points in discussion basically all revolved around a single central theme: clearance for sports to be played as early as August. But with thousands the world over continuing to die from an invisible coronavirus enemy, even the most creative of approaches would have to walk quite the crooked mile in the park along the way of medical professionals having the final word on where and to what extent it would be safe to resume games.
Regional May Be The Answer
According to a report run by sports broadcaster ESPN on Monday, the plan now being hatched by the NHL basically zooms in on the possibility of games being played in arenas, but without any fans present. But since more than three weeks of “regulator-season” games remain on the current schedule, the majority of players returned to their home countries prior to the implementation of flight-restrictions in and out of the United States. Bringing those players “back” would mean performing something akin to a miracle.
Which is probably the reason for the NHL now considering regional playoff sites instead of centralised ones in any specific city. A possible part-solution would be to “stagger” games throughout the day and evening in the same way in which the Olympics hockey schedule is approached.
Reality Check 101
But normality and Trump and all that aside, U.S. governors over the past weekend practically shot down Trump’s desire to “give the people back their sports”. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for whom the coronavirus truly came home when CNN anchor and baby brother Chris became ill with covid-19 a little over a week ago, said on the weekend that even though he too would love to see sports make a swift come-back, it’s now no longer about hoping and dreaming about and aspiring toward something, but about a focus on saving lives.