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NHL Return: Good Ideas and Bad, Really Bad



Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL return, coronavirus update. Pittsburgh Penguins

As one of our league sources unloaded on the NHL hierarchy and the league’s desire to hold the 2020 Draft in June as the launch event for the NHL return, the first cracks in the unity and togetherness appeared. The Pittsburgh Penguins and their arena are under consideration to be a host site for a quarantine games pod, and a truck load of money as at stake for everyone in the next couple of months to get things right.

There are plenty of good and bad ideas floating around, but none quite as bad as giving up.

No, seriously, there are plenty of fans and even a few in hockey who are ready to throw their hands up and surrender. Start fresh next season, right?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sing it if you like, but no one who has a dollar at stake or who loves what they do can, will, or should accept such fearful lethargy. The coronavirus is a tricky opponent which even threatens a second wave this fall, but that doesn’t mean we must live in fear. That means we protect ourselves and most importantly, we protect those at risk.

We can’t have full stadiums and arenas, but with precautions, we can build something which resembles real life. Living like hermits cannot continue, in part because our supply chain is suffering,

I heard jokes from my late Grandfather about using the Sears catalog or pine cones in the outhouse. I have no desire to actually find out if he was joking, especially since I just threw away my last Sears catalog, 30 years ago.

The Korean Baseball League is successfully playing games. WWE performers have been doing quarantined shows throughout the mandated self-quarantine period. The English Premier League (soccer) has plans to restart training camps in mid-May. F1 is moving towards a July return, as well.

By every proportional measure, the UK and the EU have suffered through more death and coronavirus cases than the U.S. Please note the word proportional in the last sentence. Now, their sports are coming back.

The best idea the NHL has put forth is to play games at two, three or four quarantined sites. The sites won’t be determined until the last moment to ensure the virus is locally contained and threats are minimized, but … Hallelujah!

Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin said it best. If and when the NHL returns with empty arenas, “It’ll be a little unusual, a little unorthodox, but that’s OK,” he said. “If we just wrap our arms around it and accept it, it will be fine. Once we start playing hockey, you play hockey.”

The world is about to ask a lot of its athletes. We’re going to ask them to be our reach back to normalcy; to fill our TV screens for entertainment. It will require they be away from their families and quarantine with teammates and opponents, alike. But it will also mean more to the world than the pure dollars and cents.

There are rumors the NHL will soon call for players to return from their permanent residences to training camp sites, as soon as May 15, so quarantines can be completed and training camps begin in June 1. Those are only rumors, but they came from a pretty good source. 

The worst idea is a June draft.

That’s almost comically bad, yet it seems the NHL is pushing hard for that to become reality. The June draft would almost assuredly negate GMs ability to enhance their team with trades. A team couldn’t deal a player at the draft, then welcome them back for the neutral site games, could they?

And, let’s not forget the number of trades made with conditions of playoff success. Should those hard-fought negotiations which could have been the deciding factor to accept or decline a deal be washed away?

“They think they can shove it down our throats,” one source told our colleagues at Boston Hockey Now.

In the middle, neither good nor bad, but increasingly unfeasible is the desire for a two week training camp to prepare players to restart. It seemed like a natural time frame, six weeks ago. However, no one quite realized that all players would be off the ice for three months, or more. That means groin muscles and hamstrings would be at risk if players try to go too hard, too soon.

A third week of camp is probably necessary as the quarantine period lasts another month. Lest we deal with the nattering nabobs of negativity who will fill social media with self aggrandizing hindsight.

Let’s begin the preparations. Let’s steel ourselves for the inevitable mistakes and shortcomings of life in general but also the NHL return. Other leagues are already lighting the way.

Let’s do it. And that is the best idea the NHL can have.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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