According to reports, the NHL and the NHLPA have a tentative agreement to start the next hockey season on January 13th and for the teams to play a regular season of 56 games. The challenge(s) facing the NHL in these times of coronavirus pandemic are more complex than they are for other US sports. The NHL has 7 teams based in Canada; as of this morning, there are travel restrictions in place for people to quarantine after crossing the border between the US and Canada. Those travel restrictions make perfect sense in terms of public health; those travel restrictions make normal scheduling procedures for the NHL impossible.
From what I have read, there is one part of the tentative agreement – – it still needs to be ratified formally by all the owners and by the players themselves – – that must have a purpose behind it; but that purpose escapes me.
- Teams that missed the playoffs last year will open their training camps on December 31st and teams that made the playoffs last year will open their training camps on January 3rd.
Here are some of the nuts and bolts contained in this tentative agreement that control how the upcoming season will take place:
- There will be no exhibition games. After a couple weeks in training camp the season will start on January 13th.
- The teams have been realigned for 2020 and the plan is to return to the old alignment once the pandemic is in the past.
- There is an all-Canadian division for those 7 teams based in Canada from Montreal in the east to Vancouver in the west.
- The 24 teams based in the US have been geographically clustered to reduce travel times and allow for some schedule compression.
- Teams will only play regular season games against the other teams in their division.
- The regular season will end on May 8th; the Stanley Cup Finals will end on or before July 15th.
- The top 4 teams in each division will comprise the field for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There are plenty of details and wrinkles contained in this tentative agreement that are important but do not register that importance to me simply because hockey is not in my wheelhouse. One way that I keep up with “hockey stuff” is to follow Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note which you can find here or on the website listed under “Columnists I Read”.
Recently, the NY Post reported that Vontaze Burfict was arrested in Las Vegas “on a misdemeanor battery charge”. As I scanned that report, two things ran through my mind:
- If I had to make a list of the 10 NFL players most likely to be involved in a “battery incident”, Vontaze Burfict would be an early entry on that list.
- I am surprised it was only a misdemeanor battery incident.
TMZ Sports reported on what allegedly happened; according to that report, Burfict and some others were looking for a place called “Secret Pizza” in Las Vegas and the schtick for “Secret Pizza” is that it is intentionally difficult to find. If you are interested, you can find the TMZ Sports report here.
For those of you old enough to have read the Uncle Remus Tales before they were deemed to be ever so politically incorrect, you may remember the story where Br’er Rabbit was caught and captured by Br’er Fox. The fox was going to eat the rabbit, but the rabbit said that would be just fine so long as the fox did not throw the rabbit into the briar patch. After a series of exchanges where the fox made it appear to be worse and worse for the rabbit, Br’er Rabbit kept saying whatever the fox wanted to do was OK – – just so he did not throw the rabbit into the briar patch.
Naturally, the fox falls for the line; throws the rabbit into the briar patch and the rabbit escapes unharmed. I mention that because the NY Knicks and owner James Dolan remind me of that story this morning. The Knicks are banning the media from Madison Square Garden and preventing them from covering the Knicks’ exhibition games played there; the reason given is the pandemic. Let’s just say that there are a few folks who are not buying that story; some folks think that this is the team’s way of trying to make life more difficult for media folks who are not always nice to the team or its owner.
I think more than a few of those media folks see this as having been thrown into the briar patch. Covering Knicks’ games has probably not been fun for the last 5 years or so; covering exhibition basketball games is more of a chore than normal because everyone knows from the beginning that the games themselves are irrelevant. And so, the team will forbid the scribes from being in the building to do something they would naturally prefer not to have to do.
- Memo to NY Knicks: Thank you for throwing me in that briar patch.
Finally, since I began this morning writing about the NHL, let me close with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Hockey: Attempted murder on ice.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………