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Will They, Won’t They, Should They?

These last 2 weeks have been full of talks about the NHL returning to at least start the playoffs, if not finish the regular season. Even Commissioner Bettman has stated that he is optimistic that we’ll have more hockey before the summer.

Well, call me a pessimist, but I don’t buy it.

The Risks

Take a look at the world right now. The virus may be on the decline in other countries, but here in the US, where the majority of the league is housed, it is certainly not. Here in Boston alone, we have not seen the peak, according to medical experts. It’s crazy to me to think that such a large organization such as the NHL is even considering bringing valuable assets back from the safety of their self-quarantines to the dangers of a country not fully prepared to handle this pandemic. Just think about the potential headlines. They didn’t announce who caught it on the Senators or the Avalanche, but it would be far more difficult to hide if someone like Ovechkin or Chara or Crosby catches it.

We as average citizens are barely allowed to go out for groceries. Most of us aren’t even working. How can a private organization say that it’s okay for them to open when it is still unsafe for large groups of people to gather? And I’m not even talking about spectators. I’m just talking about the people working for the team. There are dozens of people involved in a given team, all in close quarters. There’s no way that any reasonable epidemiologist would say that gathering two teams together just for a game is a good idea.

The Money

I know, I know, there’s a lot of money on the line here. I can understand that. But even if the league was to restart games in June as proposed, there’s no way fans would be able to attend. That’s millions if not billions of dollars lost for the teams as well as the venues. Where’s the incentive for the venues to host? With no concessions, no merchandise, and no raffles, that’s millions of lost revenue. I don’t think the TD Garden is exactly jumping at the chance to host the Bruins in front of an empty house.

I’m not going to pretend to understand how salaries and escrows work. But as a human being living through this pandemic, I believe people need to value their health and wellbeing over their entertainment. Some players are chomping at the bit to get back on the ice and I get that. What about the players with kids, though? What about the players with immunocompromised family members? And I know he hasn’t given an official or unofficial statement, but what about Max Domi, who is himself immunocompromised?* What is the NHL suggesting for these players? I haven’t seen any contingency plans for these situations if the season was to continue.

My Take

Overall, I think this whole situation is just a microcosm of the US’s attitude towards this pandemic. Some people are really taking quarantine and social distancing seriously, while the powers that be seem to be very blase. It’s like those at the top are not concerned with the human lives they are talking about.

I’m not convinced that the local governments will even allow the NHL to host games in their cities. I wouldn’t. Whatever happens, though, I do miss hockey. I miss hockey as much as the next fan, But I will not support a league that is risking the health of the thousands employed, including players, coaches, and support staff.

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-Heidi Thomas (@damselondrums)

Heidi Thomas

Armchair hockey coach, passive horse racing fan, full-time dog referee.

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