The NHL might resume the season with the playoffs in a select few arenas and without fans in the stands. But does doing so truly benefit the league, its teams, its players, its fans or its sponsors?
The clock is stopped with 1.6 seconds to play in the third period of Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. The New York Rangers are thisclose to winning hockey’s Holy Grail for the fifth time in their storied history.
Eighteen-thousand-two-hundred fans are on their feet. Some are holding their breath. Others are pleading with higher powers for one more assist. A few have their eyes closed, waiting for their ears to reveal the ending.
Except the game isn’t being played at Madison Square Garden and the 18,200 fans who would’ve been there, are instead scattered throughout the Tri-state region, watching the game on television at home.
This match is being played in Columbus, Ohio, better known for its college football and some 533 miles from the Rangers’ home borough of Manhattan.
The only noise is that from the players and coaches shouting last-second instructions.
The action is nothing more than shinny between two groups of some of the world’s best players — no fights, minimal body contact, all players wearing full face-shields, zero swig-and-spits of water and energy drinks, and masks covering the noses of coaches and officials.
This is a rough portrait of what could be when the NHL resumes play.
Home is on the road
The NHL, like many other businesses and organizations shut down by this pandemic, is in a tough spot.
Nothing’s been made official, but as Blue Line Station noted earlier this week, the league is leaning toward ditching the remainder of the regular season and resuming with a 24-team playoff.
Whether the NHL resumes with the playoffs or ditches the season and starts the 2020-21 campaign sometime in October or November remains to be seen. At the moment, the league is reportedly favoring resuming with the playoffs.
As for where the games might be played, world health officials want the resumptions of any sports leagues to start at empty arenas and stadiums, and not to be held in places they consider hotbeds for the COVID-19 virus.
That likely means no games at 33rd and 8th in Manhattan, or on Causeway Street in Boston, or at the Madhouse on Madison in Chicago, or in Hollywood, or in Canada’s largest city, Toronto.
Those places are among the NHL markets that probably won’t host games for the foreseeable future, even without fans in the stands.
Sad, but sensible.
Not good for anybody
Nobody is liking this.
The NHL and owners aren’t making money.
The advertising on the boards and ice could be mainstreamed in whichever venues the NHL choose to play. However, the signage elsewhere throughout the venue could very well not be visible to television viewers, thus rendering it meaningless to sponsors who pay for the privilege.
At the same time, the players can’t showcase their skills. The hard-working folks whose income depends on games being played — like concession workers, ushers and team store members (among others) — are out of work.
And the fans aren’t being treated the best game on earth.