You don’t have to go very far to find speculation about COVID-19 and what it means to one particular group or another. In our business, it’s hockey and the NHL’s 2019-2020 season is still hanging in the balance.
Right now, it seems everyone’s reading from a different manual. People want answers when there are none. You can’t just set an end date on a pandemic and expect things to resume normal operations. Normal may never look quite the same.
According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, a group of NHLers has been batting around the idea of returning to play in July of August. That’s based on a few health reports that suggest a possible flattening of the proverbial COVID-19 curve by around then, but there are conflicting reports as to the viability of that report.
Nevertheless, the initial speculation of possibly returning to play sometime in May seems unlikely. There is a lot more to pull back together before then, like schools and businesses for instance. Society is just now witnessing the collective rigours of shutting down and the economic fallout is not going to be pretty. That the NHL would be able to reach the front of the line, especially in front of full crowds, doesn’t seem likely for a while.
Nevertheless, speculating about plans to return to action at least gives us something to do.
According to Seravalli, this group of unnamed NHLers would opt to reopen training camps sometime in early July. That would be followed by an abbreviated conclusion to the regular season, which would wrap by the end of July. From there, the post-season would run for about two months with the Stanley Cup raised in or around September.
Following that, a briefer off-season and play for the 2020-2021 NHL season commences sometime around November.
This proposal may have some legs, as Seravalli reports the players are kicking it out to the NHLPA and potentially on to the NHL.
The problem is that it’s probably not up to them. Health authorities and governments are the keepers of the keys here and the all-clear has to be given to return to some semblance of daily life. Since we don’t know what that’s going to look like or how long that’s going to take, we’re in a holding pattern.
And with an Ottawa Senator testing positive for COVID-19, any optimism regarding a date to return gets pushed back. Again.
The fact is that there will be new cases, probably among the NHL community. And those cases will place things in a renewed perspective until we either flatten the curve or find a way to contend with coronavirus over the long haul. That is going to take some serious time.
Photo credit: NHL.com