A lot of NHL players were disappointed last week when the NHL quietly revised the earliest date for Phase 3. During NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s international address on May 26, the NHL announced NHL Return to Play Phase 3 training camps would begin no earlier than July 1. A couple of days later, the date was revised to July 10. Many players, including more than a handful of Pittsburgh Penguins, raced to their hockey home, eager to get rolling.
There wasn’t much of an explanation given for the subtle change, but players noticed. The extra 10 days with a soft date of early June for Phase 2 has left some room to wonder.
Appearing on 93-7 the Fan on Sunday with host Jeff Hatthorn (great guy), he asked me about when we may see the next phases.
- Most of the league will be ready this week. Boston is opening its Warrior Ice Rink practice facility on Saturday. The Penguins UPMC Lemieux Facility is in Butler County, which “goes green” this Friday.
Since most practice facilities are open, what’s the hold-up?
New York, Toronto, and maybe Washington. New York is still closed for business. Toronto has banned all activities of more than 10 people through June 13. And Washington’s practice rink is in Arlington, VA, which only moved to Phase 1 of reopening on Friday.
The NHL is caught in a dilemma. What to do with the few teams which can’t open facilities, yet?
The league cannot give a competitive advantage to teams in green areas. And those teams can’t hold up the league much longer. I suspect you may see some relocation, or at least consideration of moving, especially for the New York teams.
More could be asked of those players to be away from friends and family, and away from home, but it may be the only solution. COVID-19 rocked New York City (the Mayor and Healthy Department told residents in March to go out, enjoy the city and restaurants. Those actions will probably cost a few people their careers) and the explosion of cases and death account for nearly 25% of all U.S. cases
- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is not far from New York City. Nor is Hartford.
Buffalo isn’t far from Toronto.
- We broke down the numbers and the one primary factor which seemed to decide the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens season series. Carey Price is going to have a big say in the Penguins season. The Penguins pummeled Montreal with the puck but won only two of three.
The new/complete/healthy Penguins lineup is stacked. They have the ability to raise Kane in the NHL playoffs. That first series could be a doozy, however. If the Penguins hands are not ready or in sync, they’d better keep the puck out of their own net.
- We’re still watching the Montreal Canadiens efforts to include their 2018 second-round pick Alexander Romanov, who could be an upgrade on the Montreal blueline. The NHL and NHLPA have bigger fish to fry, but a decision will need to be reached and firm.
Truth? Since the NHL allowed Columbus to dress their Russian prospect last season, and Montreal did place Romanov on the reserve list back in February, they have a stronger case than the NHL.
- The NHL released a statement late Sunday night on the violence, protests, and death of George Floyd.
“As protests in both the United States and Canada in recent days have focused attention upon racial injustice for the Black community, the NHL stands with all those who are working to achieve a racially just society, and against all those who perpetuate and uphold racism, hatred, bigotry and violence.
We share the sentiments expressed by our players and Clubs in their calls for justice, and we encourage everyone to use their platforms and privilege for systemic change. In our own sport, we will continue to do better and work diligently toward culture change throughout hockey and endeavour to be mindful of our own shortcomings in this process.”
- There isn’t much more a sports league should say. Or can say. We don’t want leagues and players telling us what to think, feel or say because if they do it when most people agree, they’ll also be compelled to do it when we’re not on the same page.
Lost in the shuffle of the chaotic weekend, the political right and left are in agreement about the death of Mr. Floyd, and even the protests.
That was a small silver lining. We should recognize the common enemies of good, decent society.
- When training camp begins, and when the playoffs begin, the NHL skaters figure to be ahead of the goalies. Skaters will have nearly six weeks to get ready, while goalies won’t see game situations or that chaos until training camp.
The Qualifying Round could be decided not only by which team finds its legs first, but by which team’s goalie finds the puck first. Expect lots of juicy rebounds in the early rounds. Patric Hornqvist and, of course, Sidney Crosby should benefit.
Those two may also be the fittest Pittsburgh Penguins. Each has maniacal workout routines.
I wouldn’t be surprised if players begin to find ice rinks beyond their team approved facilities and quietly hit the ice in solo workouts.
Yeah, I’m ready for the Pittsburgh Penguins games. How about you?