The COVID-19 pandemic rocked the sports watching world late last week, causing a sudden, comprehensive shutdown of all athletic events, including the NHL and the Nashville Predators.
The NBA suspended their season first, almost immediately after learning of the positive test results from Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert. The NHL, MLS, and MLB were quick to follow the next day, suspending their leagues indefinitely in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. The Predators were supposed to play the Maple Leafs in Toronto Thursday night, but the suspension sent them packing for home early that morning.
That was disappointing news for Preds fans, especially those that made the trip up to Toronto. But it’s nothing compared to the news that seems inevitable at this point: there’s a significant chance that this 2019-20 season is over.
Not suspended, not postponed, not on hiatus.
Cancelled. Terminated. History.
When I wrote last week that the Nashville Predators were lucky to be one of the teams still technically in the playoffs when the season was suspended, I assumed there was a chance the season would return soon. The NHL identified their “best case scenario” as 2-3 weeks, which I thought sounded reasonable. That would give plenty of time to end the regular season and start the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs right on time in mid April.
Well, things have changed significantly in the last few days.
The rest of the non-sports world is starting to shut down as well, with governments across the continent banning public events of any size. Schools, clubs, churches, restaurants, bars, offices, and just about anything that isn’t a small gathering of 2-4 people, are slowly being shut down.
On Sunday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper called for an emergency order by the Department of Health regarding Nashville’s downtown bar scene. This is due part to a viral video (no pun intended) on late Saturday evening showing a packed bar of Broadway patrons, apparently oblivious to the public health crisis consuming our country right now.
Downtown Nashville is undefeated. pic.twitter.com/BFIOzukFct
— Janna Abraham (@SportsPundette) March 15, 2020
Then later that night, the Center for Disease Control issued a recommendation that all events with more than 50 people scheduled for the next eight weeks be cancelled or postponed. Talk about a game changer.
I’ll spare you, dear reader, with extensive rhetoric about why we should or should not be scared of this virus. I will let the current rates of infection and mortality speak for themslves especially the ones in Italy, which the U.S. seems to be modeling after.
But just look at the timeline here. Considering what we know about the virus (the most notable being that most people carry the virus for up to two weeks without showing symptoms and also it is spread through respiratory glands), it seems like we are probably not even sure how many people are sick at this point. The initial 2-3 week window the NHL gave us would be assuming most people weren’t sick, but could become sick, and then get better in that time span.
However, when you consider how people act when not mandated to stay home (see the above tweet), you see the problem. We aren’t even close to the end of this. It’s likely just the beginning.
In the end, there simply may not be enough time left to start and finish the NHL playoffs. Even a Frankenstein-variation, throwing in more playoff teams but having them play only best-of-three, seems unlikely.
I’m sorry, Nashville Predators fans. But it seems inevitable that you may have already watched the last game of the 2019-20 season.
Preds Quote of the Week
This week’s Preds quote is a long one, but an important one. Here’s forward Nick Bonino on the issue I mentioned above about downtown Nashville. Read every word of this.
Friendly thoughts pic.twitter.com/heWNokTvtm
— Nick Bonino (@NickBonino) March 15, 2020
GIF Me That Good Stuff
Remember Preds hockey? Here’s a throwback to just last week when Filip Forsberg scored two goals against the Canadiens en route to setting two new franchise records.
Grip it and rip it, Forsberg. 😤
(🎥 TSN) pic.twitter.com/2XyQAwV7vv
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) March 11, 2020
Let’s Do That Hockey
Or not! This week the Preds would be facing the Avs, Flyers, Blackhawks, and Jets.
This has been, without a doubt, the wildest thing I’ve ever seen covering professional sports. I never thought I would see more than one league affected by a single event in the same way that September 11th, 2001 did, which was a significantly different catastrophe for many reasons.
A complete shutdown of all sports for probably a month or more is unprecedented, unimaginable, and unavoidable.
I’m not sure what things will look like on the other end of this. Everything may go back to normal, or it may not. I hope we are able to look back at this as a bad illness that we were able to control and minimize. The alternative is frightening, but hopefully just a nightmare we don’t have to experience.
I’m also not sure what my normal Nashville Predators coverage, this column included, will look like. It is, after all, hard to cover a team that is not playing games, not practicing, not talking to the public, and seemingly isolated from everything.
In the meantime, please make sure to follow the advice of experts. The Center for Disease Control is a great resource for how to protect yourself from Covid-19, so check out their website here. Most of the advice is common sense, like washing your hands often and avoiding close contact with others. Though as we saw in downtown Nashville recently, common sense is apparently not very common.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —