To give NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman some credit, he’s working hard to make sure the 2019-2020 playoffs go ahead. Despite teams announcing cases of COVID-19, the focus is still on which hub cities will host.
The lockdown, in its various forms depending where you live, has given time for reflection and as I sit here with my iced-latte, wondering what July will bring, two things are clear: it’s summer, and I don’t care about the NHL resuming.
That’s not say I’m not excited about next season. I can’t wait for everyone to be fit and healthy again, and to see what the Yzerplan will bring. But let’s save all that stuff for next season.
Sure the NHL and teams will be financially affected, as have most sports teams across the world. But it’s foolish to think that North America is safe enough to host a major sports tournament without people getting ill. The Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t even host practices without three players and two staff testing positive. Even Auston Matthews has reportedly tested positive.
Given the choice between seeing my team stay off the ice and stay healthy for a few months, and risk getting ill in a throw-away tournament. I don’t mean to disrespect Lord Stanley’s cup, but the season wasn’t completed, and the playoff format will be very different. Whichever team wins will always be the team with an asterisk.
Aside from recouping some lost finance, there’s no real incentive to keep dragging out this season, the NHL can’t realistically sell tickets for the games as you can’t social distance in an arena, so the league is incredibly irresponsible, the income will only come from TV, and in the height of summer, I’m really not that bothered about watching ice-hockey.
You’ve got to feel a bit for Bettman. This is one of the most difficult decisions he has to make as Commissioner. Playoffs go ahead and he’s putting peoples’ health at risk, as well as potentially delaying the start of next season. Cancel the season and there’s the huge financial impact, as well as angering the many fans who want to see a conclusion.
No doubt all the steps that can be taken, are. But as much as it’s a huge part of our lives, it’s really not essential.
Feature image by Bruce Bennett – Getty Images