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Hockey this summer sounds great on paper but is much harder in reality

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NHL: Florida Panthers at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I miss hockey. You miss hockey. Your neighbor misses hockey. It’s what it is.

Like so many things ingrained in our daily lives grounded in expectation, the loss of hockey has affected many, from stadium employees to players’ pending free agent status to the legions of fans at home across the country and world. We love it and want more of it, or some of it. That’s life right now.

When news broke this week that training camps could fire up on June 1 and the season/playoffs could kick-start sometime in July, people got excited. Summer hockey! The playoffs at last! Bring it on, right?!? Well, just hold on a second while I play Debbie Downer or devil’s advocate.

This summer return is going to be highly difficult and problematic. The idea brought up weeks ago about playing all games and holding all the teams in one city was shot down fast for being way too far-fetched, basically the equivalent of a “Fast and Furious” movie coming true. All the players huddled in one part of a single city playing in one or a few locations without families or the right amount of testing in place. It won’t work.

THE IDEA

Now, Florida is being pushed forward as a place where games could take place. Little or no fans in the house. Governor Ron DeSantis, as our Dane McGuire wrote yesterday, declared sports an essential business, which meant the UFC matches scheduled there could go on ... as well as other sports like hockey. The state would allow arena workers, broadcast teams, and other required parties for a sports game to operate under the new conditions.

Now, what makes Florida different than the proposed Arizona neutral site proposed weeks ago? I dunno. The fact that it’s legit and has more locations available maybe? The exact details aren’t out there yet. All you have is John Scott tweeting out saying players can get back on the ice in June, which is a little over a month away.

During that month, doctors and assorted medical professionals will more than likely play devil’s advocate themselves and try to see how this couldn’t work. How many stadiums or arenas? Where are all the teams going to stay? Can you get the proper staffing for those hotels and stadiums huddled into that area for weeks or months? What about testing for everyone?

TESTING?

Here’s the deal. You need to have widespread testing available, or at least for the teams, coaches, arena workers, hotel workers, broadcast teams, and all the other parties included. Right now, there is NOT widespread testing. It’s not secret pass-code or handshake stuff yet, but you can’t just get a test if you want.

Do they have the required amount of test kits?

Are you taking from hospitals and clinics that need them?

RISK LIVES?

Here’s the bigger deal. Is it even worth it? Teams haven’t been on the ice for six weeks, so make it 10 by the time June rolls around. They get a month or so to get ready to play four rounds of playoffs. Now, there is talk of making every series best of five instead of best of seven games, but that isn’t in concrete yet. Best of five game sets still require a lot of time and the hockey will look rough for the first two rounds. No fans in the stands too, so the atmosphere for a playoff game, which is what sets hockey apart from other sports, is gone right there. When was the last time the players had NO ONE in the stands for even a high school game?

Without fans in the stands, the revenue from game nights is gone, which is a big piece of how teams and the league make money. Television rights count for something, but only a portion.

How will the players be situated on the ice? They would have to be in the stands, separated from each other, right? Coaches would need separation too so if there was a timeout for a play draw-up, Craig Berube would scream for the team to look at the jumbotron I guess. The medical personnel would be on site somewhere too. The truth is you wouldn’t need a ton of arena staff if there are no fans, but they would still have to be there in some capacity.

You would need tests every day, possibly twice. You wouldn’t want the players to spread this around Florida like some moronic college kids on spring break. The players being separate from their families to make millions of dollars to play a game isn’t too much to ask, or is it? Some players don’t get to see their families much during the season. Just ask Pat Maroon about his career a couple years ago. But this is different. This is dangerous.

ONE POSITIVE TEST STOPS EVERYTHING

What if a player tests positive? A coach? You’d have to shut the playoffs down immediately, especially if multiple teams are playing on that rink. It would be over and who knows when it gets going again? You have to wait two weeks and summer would start aging quick.

And then there’s the 2020-21 season. What about next season? How long is it being pushed back? Playoffs normally take from early April to almost the middle of June. The playoffs, without a single glitch, would end around the end of August. Players would need a good break before getting back on the ice ... unless you want to have injuries stack up within the first month. Preseason could be slashed because it’s a drag anyway, but the season couldn’t get going until November. That’s a huge maybe. Draft, free agency, and all the other stuff jammed into that small period.

Remember, this is only if the playoffs occur without a glitch. At the moment, St. Louis is still under a stay at home order. There’s a rumor that they would want to hold games here. So, by July, we can hope to be out and about at gyms and salons, but can a league operate a playoff structure and actually hold games at the Enterprise Center? Right .... there’s just no way.

IT HAS A SELFISH STINK

Taking away my love of the game and the playoffs, this comeback reeks as being selfish. Greedy and money-hungry. This is owners trying to collect something, not in the pursuit of crowning a champion that surely won’t seem like winning Lord Stanley last year. If there is anyone who can stomach the loss of the season, it’s the owners and general managers. They have survived lockouts before that didn’t have anything to do with a global pandemic.

For once in their lives, owners and teams should just think about the bigger picture. Scrap the rest of the season and playoffs, and prepare for October. Keep that goal in mind. The salary cap may go down, but not drastically. Players, agents, and general managers will get creative because ... it’s a fucking pandemic! Everyone is having to adjust their normals and try to find balance, so why force hockey back into operation when it’s clearly not feasible.

It’s really not. When you look at how this can work out, it’s like pulling the pieces away from the already vulnerable Jenga tower. One question turns into more questions. A problem multiplies and returns back to its original predicament. Before you know it, the plan just doesn’t work. More than that, it’s really not worth the risk of lives being lost. Let’s say someone gets infected with COVID due to the gathering of teams, coaches, broadcast teams, arena workers, and other personnel. Are you ready to swallow the death of someone because the league came back too quickly?

JULY IS TOO LATE ANYWAY

July is a late start with most of the country not even in recovery mode. There were reports that Missouri’s death and infection toll had hit its peak on Monday, but the numbers could say different. This comeback is like throwing darts at a wall blindfolded. The league will say health officials signed off on it, but remember those medical “professionals” probably have a wad of cash stuffed into their suit jacket. Ask the World Health Organization if it’s truly safe. Ask someone detached from the NHL.

Look, I get it. I can already see the comments on here and over social media. Fiery arrows will head my way from fans who desperately need hockey. People will call me a moron and order me to drink bleach, which wouldn’t be the first time. Someone may even tie me up and inject Lysol into my arms for saying an NHL return this summer isn’t a good idea.

Trust me, I’d love to watch a Blues game with my brother and dad in the cigar lounge. Having the opportunity to heed questions from my dad on why the team looks so lethargic in the first period sounds dreamy. Seeing my brother go from a near-sleep to an energetic fist pump after a goal is an emphatic idea in my head right now. It can wait until the fall though.

IS THE LEAGUE WORRIED ABOUT 2020-21 HAPPENING?

The only thing that keeps popping up in my head is the league having a sneaking suspicion that COVID strikes hard again in the fall or early winter, and they are trying to get something out of 2020. Still, it doesn’t stand up against precaution or logic.

There won’t be a vaccine for at least a year. A sustainable treatment may come later this year. Widespread testing could become a reality near the end of summer or maybe the beginning of winter. Who knows? We are still in the land of unknowns. Yeah, we’re still here.

The right thing to do would be to cancel the season and think about 2020-21. Safety first, they say when you’re young.

For once, let’s think globally and not just locally when it comes to what we want.