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Should the NHL Quarantine 16 Teams and Play?



NHL Return Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Stanley Cup

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and there seems to be growing appetite and consideration for something we never thought possible. Like the NHL initially considered, NASCAR is considering running races without fans beginning in May, but that seems to be a pipe dream. Instead, the Chinese Basketball League, which suspended play on Jan. 24 due to the coronavirus, is considering something entirely different and something which may become a necessary blueprint for other leagues to follow if any North American leagues hope to resume before next season.

The Chinese Basketball league is considering playing games at one, neutral site location. They are essentially considering building a bubble around their players and league.

I haven’t watched a complete NBA game since…since…hang on, I’m sure I’ll remember it. The last time I enjoyed the league was nearly 30 years ago, but I’ll damned sure watch games if the NBA adopts the Chinese model, which ESPN reports the NBA is watching closely.

It’s a great idea, and the NHL should immediately investigate the possibility of a sequestered, neutral-site tournament for the Stanley Cup, too.

Hockey players are a different breed, and the chance to play for a Stanley Cup is all they want. Can anyone imagine Sidney Crosby, or any of the Pittsburgh Penguins saying, “no thanks.”

Hockey as far more support staff, from equipment managers to trainers. Even Zamboni drivers would need to be a part of the sequester. It would be a far more difficult situation for hockey to complete.

If it proves feasible, go for it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the idea floating through my irritated, quarantined brain for a while, too. What if we tested all of the players and necessary people, then kept them away from everyone? China went one better with the neutral site idea.

The Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on the campus of North Dakota University is the nicest hockey rink in North America. It’s also in the middle of nowhere, far away from the densely populated areas of infection like New York City. I’ll bet the University has plenty of empty college housing at this point, too.

The ideal spot would be a small college town emptied by the shutdown but with premier facilities.

If the NHL were to follow through with the idea but want an NHL rink, the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins might be a sweet spot, too. There are plenty of hotels and empty college housing within sight of the state of the art arena. And Allegheny County, while under the stay-home order, has not yet been besieged by the virus.

Based on the chuckleheads who were out on Saturday but ignored social distancing, we are either going to become a hotbed or never get it, but I digress.

Sunday did mark a statistically important day in the fight against the virus. Deaths dropped significantly after a spike on Friday and Saturday. The United States, however, has the most coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the world, and it is the popular opinion that we’re not yet to the apex of this pandemic.

If we are not yet to the worst of it, then we need something to hold. We need something that is close to normal because we’re going to be locked up for another 10 weeks or more.

If the NHL or any league can salvage something from this, let them profit. Let TV networks go crazy with promotion. If I see another Mama June promo on the WE Network while watching the original Law and Order binge-athon, I’m gonna toss my sketti and butter.

I’m not confident the Chinese can pull it off. Communists are better at creating lies than effectual activity. I am confident Americans and Canadians could make it work because they will not be under “orders” from above, and would not cut corners to make it happen.

Since this idea has been broached, it’s time to begin planning. It will be messy and chaotic. There will be criticisms. It will also be a saving grace for people isolated from their daily lives and detached from other human beings.

There could be a chance for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and everyone else to battle for the Stanley Cup.

I’m in.