There are few good ideas in the pandemic. The most you can collect is, “Well, I guess that’s the best they can do.” The urge to try and have something normal is understandable, it’s just that there are so many limits on how to get there safely, so either we can’t have them or we just ignore the limits completely. Nor are they a suitable way to do things. .
I’ll admit with relief that a seemingly normal NHL season would take place this fall after last year’s shortened, stage-like version. It never felt right and just reminded everyone of what we didn’t have. I don’t know if the sight of hockey starting mid-October as usual with the crowd was something I hoped was a harbinger of normality at hand, or just a distraction from it all every time I tuned it in. It wasn’t really either. And the Olympics are the next bell to ring as we have yet to go, so it seems.
Relationships overflowed over the weekend, while the NHL was holding its governors’ meeting, players were pretty worried about going to China in February. The NHL itself has never been thrilled with the idea, and this time they have been reserved, saying it’s the players’ agreement, while making it clear that they still don’t think it’s a good idea. Which is not.
Gary Bettman himself was careful to point out that it’s still up to the players and that the owners agreed to let it be the players’ decision in the latest CBA negotiations (which the owners used to get pretty much everything else they wanted), but he also made it clear that he and the owners are not partial to going. It all sounded like a worried parent trying to urge their child to come to the right conclusion on their own without having to be the bad guy to go to spring break alone or something. “Well, you’re an adult now, so it’s up to YOU, and if YOU think it’s a good idea, then YOU can do it. But do you really think it’s a good idea? “
The main concern is the possible quarantine for successful players that could last up to five weeks in Beijing. This is still not sure and it is unclear whether a player who tests positive can be transferred out of China, but players are still waiting. Current protocols in China provide for a 3-5 week quarantine. Whether this applies to the Olympians, we have yet to find out.
You can see the problem here. Should a player test positive in the final week of the tournament, say before the semi-finals, they could lose a month or more of NHL action waiting to return, while also being abandoned thousands of miles from home. This clearly doesn’t appeal to a wide range of players, who are starting to wonder if it’s worth it.
It is not the only problem. Another is that the NHL is absolved from paying any player who wastes time testing positive and quarantined and missing NHL games. So not only could a player get stuck in China for weeks and miss home games, but they wouldn’t get paid for that privilege either. The International Ice Hockey Federation has a $ 5 million fund to reimburse any players it could happen to, but there seems to be no answer if that fund runs out and there are too many players to cover. You’ll be shocked to hear that NHL owners aren’t exactly sprinting to dive on that live grenade for players.
This week is when NHL players will have a clearer idea of what the exact protocols are for the Olympics, as they will receive a manual from the IOC and IIHF on what life will be like in Beijing .. And how they won’t talk is how their party will be affected. Don’t be fooled. While playing in the tournament and representing their countries and winning a gold medal is the biggest part of the attraction for the players, the fun and “opportunities” are also a huge attraction for the players. You don’t need me to tell you what life is like inside the Olympic Village. And when you’re an NHL player there, you’re almost the biggest celebrity there with none of the TMZ-ings star athletes get at home but usually hockey players pass. This is an important part of the appeal for the players. If everyone is locked up in their dorms and only left out for drills and games, the roll call deflates like a balloon.
The NHL has a half-hammer on this, although they have been clear to point out that it is still up to the players. That is, if the NHL schedule is torn by postponements due to COVID, owners and players can agree that they need the Olympic break to catch up on matches. That trying to play so many games in the last two months of the season is simply unsustainable.
You wouldn’t know, the Calgary game in Chicago this evening was only postponed due to positive tests among the Flames. I’m not saying, I’m just saying …
It’s not even as obvious as it sounds, as some teams have booked their arenas during the break for other things. I have to chase the lost income, after all. So it will take some scheduled aerobics if that happens. But what is the threshold on this? The islanders have some games to invent. The flames will do it now. No one has a definite number of teams or games that would be too much to catch up without using that gap in February.
The logistics of the NHL going to the Olympics have always been a nightmare, and even more so for the games that air at 3am. a.m. The NHL has never really gotten a boost from these, aside from maybe a couple of months in 2010. However, it would be sad for an entire generation of players to miss the Olympics, which would happen if there were 12 full years in the game. NHL in progress.
(This is where I would suggest both players and owners to do whatever they can to revive the World Cup in the summer which can and should be a better quality tournament with rested players, played in North America, where both owners and players they can profit, but both sides screwed that thing up to the point that it’s probably dead permanently).
But this is a bigger mess than normal, and it is it seems that it will become too much of one to pass with.