PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JUNE 11
By Leo Haggerty

YOU’RE PLAYING WHERE

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

Our Senior Writer for Its Sports Magazine, Rob Kriete, hit the nail on the head with his last “GAME ON” column.  In case you haven’t had a chance to peruse his prose, one of the main points of his article was that sports fans need to stay up-to-date with the team and sport that they are passionate followers by all means possibly.  Remember, fan is short for fanatic, correct?

So, let’s take a look at the National Hockey League and give their fans an up-to-date assessment of what is being proposed.  To start, today, the NHL announced Phase 3 of their return-to-play plan will be implemented and that is the opening of formal training camps on July 10th.

Teams will not be able to conduct training camps at the two hub cities which haven’t been selected at this time.  Some organizations, especially the six Canadian ones, will be allowed to move their training camps to the United States due to national quarantine guidelines that are still in place north of the border.

The date for the initiation of Phase 4, which is the resumption of games, has not been set.  One of the reasons is that no set training camp timetable has been established.  Most league officials agree that would be three weeks but that’s not set-in-stone by any means.

Also, the two hub cities that will host 12 teams each have not even been chosen.  Rumor has it that Las Vegas is one of the sites but that is strictly speculation.  The second venue will be either Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto or Vancouver.

So, just pick another city and let’s drop the puck ASAP, right.?  Not so fast, my friend.  Here’s the massive, and I emphasize massive, hurdles that the NHL will have to overcome with playing hockey in August.

First, let’s deal with Las Vegas as a hub.  This is extremely unrealistic because the average high temperature for the month of August is 104 degrees.  Yes, you read that right, Mother Nature dropping triple digit heat during the day.

Not only would it be unbearably hot for players trying recover but how do you make ice for multiple games per day?  I know I would want no parts of being on the team that has to play the fourth game of the day on slush.  Surely not an equal playing field to say the least.

Second, that hub city list could be whittled down by 33% if the quarantine restrictions remain the same in Canada.  So, assuming that “Sin City” is one of the hubs and that’s a huge assumption as I have explained above, that leaves five possible venues.

Taking into consideration all the events that have occurred since the NHL postponed its season in mid-March, there are no real good possibilities.  Every site has a different set major complications that will need to be addressed before the first puck is dropped.

I’ll give Commissioner Gary Bettman the same advice I put forth two months ago.  Shut it down for 2020.  Stop trying to force an issue that will, at best, lead to a postponement of the next season and, possibly, more.

The NHL needs to concentrate all it’s energies on starting the 2020-21 campaign on time.  That’s the logical thing to do but, as we all know, sometimes logic doesn’t prevail.

Hopefully, this time it will.  In my opinion, the risks of restarting far outweigh the rewards.