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MLB Makes its Pitch, NHL is On the Clock But Issues Remain

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NHL Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins Game vs. Boston Bruins

Major League Baseball will meet to discuss an 82-game season and compensation, according to published reports. Baseball owners agreed to the plans, which will include home stadiums without fans, and the season will begin in July, which is midway through what would be a regular baseball season. The NHL playoffs don’t have the luxury of picking up where they may have left off, but the clock is ticking on hockey.

If you’d like to read more on the baseball proposal, ESPN is all over it. It will be interesting to see if owners can get players to agree to some sort of revenue caps, but it’s hard to believe owners would scrap the entire season over it.

One important note, MLB began testing weeks ago as part of a study. There is no word that hockey did so.

For the NHL playoffs to begin in July, there generally accepted timelines require at least one-month preparation. Actually, it’s closer to six weeks.

Players returning from all parts of the hockey globe must first self-quarantine, again, for two weeks. Upon completion of the quarantine, workouts and training camp can begin.

Players will need a bare minimum of two weeks to get into game shape. The reality is, let’s make it three, including a few days of dry land training interspersed with on-ice workouts. The NHL will have an epidemic of groin and hamstring injuries if it rushes players back to games.

So, factoring travel times, facility preparations, and player readiness, that is a six-week ramp. This week marks six weeks until July.

Yeah, the NHL is on the clock, immediately.

Most recent NHL return proposals and leaks hinted the league was considering a 24-team playoff and the abandonment of the remainder of the regular season.

However, we’re still on Phase One of the NHL three-phase plan. Phase One is home quarantining, as mandated by the NHL. Phase Two is the reopening of facilities for small group workouts, and Phase Three is the resumption of the season or NHL playoffs with teams traveling to the neutral site pods.

According to TSN reporter Frank Seravalli, 22 teams are in locations in which COVID-19 restrictions are eased, and facilities can reopen. The Pittsburgh Penguins home barn, PPG Paints Arena, or their Cranberry Twp. practice facility qualifies as able to be opened or soon opened. However, other locations such as New York City are still far away from such easement. The NHL will not move to Phase Two until an “acceptable mass” of facilities can be reponed.

So, the NHL is still in Phase One.

Tic-toc.

From this point forward, every day lost is another day deeper into July. Moreover, the further into July they push the start, the more significant the delay for the 2020-21 season.

Both MLB and the NHL will have to deal with Canadian travel restrictions. Athletes must quarantine for two weeks before resuming activity, but the initial quarantine does not count. Such restrictions negate the potential for road-games in Canadian cities or leaving once established.

MLB is looking to station the Toronto Blue Jays at their spring training facility in Florida. The NHL has not yet publicly dealt with the issue.

The NHL doesn’t have the looming fight over cash, which baseball does. Nor does the NHL the natural advantage of resuming their season within their regular season.

Fortunately, the Korean Baseball League is lighting a path. And, through a few mistakes, so too is German soccer. NASCAR resumes this weekend, actually on the physical track and not televised video games. Indycar will hit the pavement on June 6.

The momentum to move forward is palpable. We’re in the home stretch–it’s going to happen, now or never. The NHL must figure out what to do with New York teams, perhaps the Boston Bruins, and the Canadian teams. If the Canadian government holds firm to its quarantine rules and doesn’t accept a public quarantine in the U.S., then maybe games won’t be played in Canada.

As sad as less, or no Canadian games may be, the goal is the safe resumption of the NHL playoffs and nothing more.

So, here we go. NHL, the clock is ticking.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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