The NHL is still holding out hope that the 2019-20 season can be played out, based on the formation of a “Return To Play Committee” as first reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
The committee consists of Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, plus a select few players from the league, including Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Sheifele, Toronto Maple Leafs’ John Tavares, and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid. The goal of the committee is to “discuss concepts” of how the league can return to play out the 2019-20 season, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Those ideas included neutral cities to host games (an idea which was ruled out almost immediately due to logistical concerns) and also for NHL arenas to host multiple teams across several weeks, which would have its own challenges.
Hearing the favorites are Raleigh, Minnesota, Edmonton and TBD in the Atlantic Division https://t.co/ZbiIXDycHQ
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) April 22, 2020
But isn’t all of this a bit of a reach? Shouldn’t the NHL just give up at this point?
NHL needs to concede this season
It’s not a bad idea to have a committee devoted to discussing concerns about the NHL returning to play. But given the level of quarantine that most of the country is in right now (one study cited that over 97% of Americans are quarantined currently) it seems pretty foolish to think the 2019-20 season is even salvageable.
For one, we are nearly into May and the league is still not close to ending suspension. Some states are beginning to discuss re-opening strategies, but not all of them. The NHL would have to coordinate re-opening the league across 21 different states/provinces in two different countries, all of which have varying levels of exposure to Covid-19 and very different governing/policy strategies regarding the outbreak. The league couldn’t realistically ask a city like New York, which has been very hard hit by the pandemic, to follow the same timeline as states like Minnesota or Arizona, which have been spared somewhat.
Realistically, it’s going to take a few more weeks, or maybe a month or two, before all 31 teams are in the same position to be able to reopen. So by that time, it’s nearly June.
Then, if you want to re-open the league for the 2019-20 season, you’ve got to allow players and coaches a mini-training camp of sorts, which will take a week or two at minimum. These players can’t be expected to return to full playing shape after 2-3 months off, especially if they return in the middle of a playoff race and especially if the possibility of another Covid-19 outbreak is looming.
So now it’s mid to late June… and you want to continue playing a season that pressed the pause button three months prior? And put the next season, which starts in three months, in jeopardy?
What would be the point of this?
You’d be putting your entire league and fans at risk to finish a season that is basically doomed, all while also directly affecting the next league season.
A better solution is to just announce the cancellation of the 2019-20 season, ending it without a Stanley Cup Champion. The Boston Bruins can be awarded the Presidents’ Trophy and you can go ahead and hand out player awards based on the 68-70 games that were played.
Just concede this season to the coronavirus and leave the 2020-21 season untouched (for now).
While I applaud the NHL for trying to think of ideas to make the 2019-20 season happen again, I just don’t see any way this can work. No committee can change the situation we are in. It’s here, we just have to deal with it.
— Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports —