You know it’s officially the strangest year of our lifetime when the NHL has been more effective than the other major team sports’ leagues with its plan to return to action after a longer than four-month shutdown of sports due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Players and owners bickered over money for two months causing baseball to miss a golden opportunity to have the sports stage all to itself. Instead, we are left with a 60 game regular season and many prominent players bowing out of this season.
MLB hasn’t even been able to test its players properly for Covid-19. Many teams missed days of training camp because it took as long as five days to get results.
The NBA announced two months ago that it would resume play within a bubble at Disney World in Florida. The problem is that since announcing the restart of its season, Florida, in particular Central Florida, has resurfaced as a hot spot for the virus.
Many players have tested positive for Covid-19 and will not take part in the exercise. Other players will stay home because they are not comfortable leaving their families for up to three months. Meanwhile, scores of players who are playing seem less than enthusiastic about heading to Orlando.
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The NFL went all-in during the off-season with free agency and the draft. Camps are scheduled to open at the end of July. However, the exhibition schedule has been reduced from four to two games. It would not come as a surprise if the regular season was delayed two to four weeks, meaning Super Bowl LV in Tompa Bay would take place in early March.
NFL owners have also proposed that 35 percent of players’ salaries this season be placed in escrow. Such a move would significantly impact an already fractious owner-player relationship.
Meanwhile, the NHL held its plan close to the vest, unveiling details once they were etched in stone.
Instead of one bubble location, the NHL has two, with Toronto and Edmonton serving as its hubs. Going north of the border is wise since Canada has a much better handle on the virus when compared to the United States.
Not surprisingly, very few players have complained or decided to skip the remainder of the season. Hockey players are a different breed. Among professional team sports athletes, hockey players are the most humble and accommodating. Getting their name on the Stanley Cup is something that every player dreams of.
The NHL has taken this opportunity to deal with potential labor issues as well. Instead of fighting about dollars, the league and players union quietly added four years to its Collective Bargaining Agreement while forming a plan to deal with the loss of revenue due to the Coronavirus. This deal guarantees labor peace through the 2025-26 season.
The league also announced that the first ten days of the reboot will feature five to six games per day starting as early as noon and running past midnight allowing hockey fans the opportunity to enjoy a nearly endless feast of competitive games.
Major League Baseball can’t even get its testing right. NBA players, rightfully so, seem less than enthusiastic heading into the hot spot of a pandemic. The NFL still has more questions than answers. Hockey quietly is ready to resume play with the best chance of finishing its season without incident.
Let’s drop the puck.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
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NHL Leading Scorers – 2019/20