As the NHL and NBA get closer to returning, I’m still seeing people say they shouldn’t finish their 2019-20 seasons for reasons other than safety. They say that it’ll affect next season too much, and they’d rather just have one messed up season. What I don’t think people saying this realize is that next season would most likely not be normal anyways. In the case of the NHL, it’s practically impossible that it would be. Here’s why.
Hub Cities Not Plausible
Unlike the NBA, which is restarting its season in one location, the NHL is going to be in two cities. While the NBA could still do that for the regular season (more on that in another article soon), it wouldn’t make sense for the NHL to play out a regular season in multiple hub cities.
More Teams, More Problems
One reason hub cities don’t make sense during the regular season is there will be more teams to deal with. 12 teams will already be a lot for one city to deal with, but they’ll only have to hold that many for a week or two until four are eliminated. But, if there were to be just two hub cities for the regular season, you’d have 16 teams in one, and 15 in the other, the entire time. That’s just not feasible. There’s nowhere that could create a bubble for that many teams for an extended period of time, especially as things keep opening back up around the country. They would have to split teams up by division into four hub cities to help make it possible. Even at that, it would likely still not be possible.
Inter-Division Play Renders Hub Cities Useless
Even if they were to create the possibility of four hub cities, it doesn’t make sense for them to. There is a lot of inter-division and inter-conference play during the regular season, meaning teams would have to travel between the hubs to play a lot of games. The whole purpose of the hub city is to keep players in one spot and eliminate as much travel as possible. So, having to travel between them completely defeats that purpose. Hub cities will work for the playoffs because teams won’t have to travel until the conference finals. But, during the regular season, teams would be traveling far more often, so it makes hub cities useless. They might as well just stay in their home cities, but that creates its own problems.
Is It Possible to Have No Hub Cities?
If the players are not kept in a bubble, there is far more potential for them to get exposed to the virus. Yes, they could tell the players to quarantine in their homes. But do you really think they’ll all listen? Even in the hub cities, there’s no guarantee they all stay put 100% of the time. But, at least they’ll have a way to enforce it. If they were all home, there’s simply no way to ensure they all stay there, so it’s doubtful that all of them would.
In addition to not being able to guarantee that players don’t leave their homes except to go to the rink, there’s no way to make family members stay home. They need to leave the house in order to at least get necessities and in some cases work. That’s not even including leaving the house for things they want to do but don’t have to. By leaving the house, they could easily be exposed to the virus and not know it, and bring it home to the player. Then, if the player gets infected or becomes a carrier, he’d bring it to the rink and not know, thus potentially infecting his teammates and anyone he plays against.
So, it’s not feasible to have the players stay home. There’s just no way to make sure they stay home all the time. It’s also not possible to make sure their families do too. Even if there was a way, I don’t think you’re going to find many players willing to subject their wives, girlfriends, and kids to strict quarantine rules so they can play hockey. So, things would have to improve enough with the virus for it to not be necessary to quarantine players. It’s highly likely that that happens without a vaccine, which is still several months away.
In the Regular Season, Contact Tracing Gets More Complicated
In the regular season, contact tracing and quarantining would get a lot more complicated. Any player who gets infected would come into direct contact with more teams then they will in the playoffs. You’d also have to quarantine anyone that played a team that played against an infected player recently. In all likelihood, it would lead to a full shutdown of the league, because there wouldn’t be enough teams left to keep going.
It’s Simply Easier to Finish This Season
In my opinion, it’s easy to see why the NHL is pushing so hard to finish off this season. For starters, they can crown a champion for this season instead of scrapping it after 70 games. Not only that, but it’s far more complicated to play out a regular-season during a pandemic then it is playoffs. Also, by finishing this season, the league is able to make up for some of its lost revenue. It also gives them more time to work out a plan for next season. Plus, by the time next season rolls around, we’ll know even more about the virus. We’ll also be that much closer to a vaccine. So, it’s probable they’ll be able to have fewer restrictions, and possibly not have to strictly quarantine players.
In short, it simply makes much more sense for the NHL to try to finish this season and delay the beginning of the 2020-21 season. The same is true of the NBA, so check back in a few days for my article on what that’s true!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)