With the month of June just a few days away, and thinking the 60-day extended weekend might be coming to an end, maybe it's time to talk about the strange state of the game.
The plan here is to steer clear of mass speculation, guess work, and gross overstatements of facts. This is not Fox or CNN and we are not carrying the flag for either side of the political spectrum. What I'm about to say is based entirely on what the experts are saying, from both of those extremities, and how that's already impacting the world of sports.
I'm pretty sure nobody really saw this coming; a time when we would witness the closing of churches, sports venues, theme parks, and almost everything else, all at the same time. The gut retching thing that's bothering me the most is the grand power-plays by state and local officials that have decided that they know more about individual safety than the individuals themselves.
Let's face reality here; politics has played a major role in sidelining all of us. From the beginning, the numbers proved that young athletes were the least vulnerable, so why were they the among the first to see their lives put on hold? The same goes for all the children; in retrospect, do you really feel that a nationwide quarantine was really worth it?
So let's start with the schools. It's fair to say that states that won't be opening schools until 2021 (really after the November election), there's a minimal chance they are going to allow ice hockey to be played.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has told schools in his state that they should "prepare for the possibility" of not returning to a physical classroom until January 2021. California State University, the country’s largest four-year public university system, said that in-person classes at its 23 campuses would be scrapped for the fall semester, with instruction taking place almost entirely online. Other left leaning governors are expected to follow those leads.
Just the thought of those key hockey states losing a year of development is unbearable. Do you really see any scenario where a pile of teams, from all around the country, are going to be able to come together for the routine long weekend of games? I'm sorry, but that's going to be highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. AAA and AA hockey is going to have to follow the junior scheduling model in order to survive, if they are able to ice teams at all.
Junior hockey has a ton of other issues.
I'm not going to get into what Canada or the United States is or is not going to do regarding visas for amateur hockey players. Let's table that thought until we know the facts.
What we do know is that the regulations (both in-place and proposed) vary from state to state and province to province.
Let's start with the Canadian Hockey League.
Folks, we have a serious problem in the state of Washington (go ahead and add Oregon too). Governor Jay Inslee's plans include limiting spectator events to 25% of capacity until November where a step up to 50% is a possibility. Western Hockey League teams in the state would likely be forced to postpone the start of the season until the increase took place. Their operating margins are entirely too thin to operate at such a limited capacity.
Not to be outdone, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has figured out a why to alienate 90% of her constituents with a number of overreaches during the quarantine. Imagine the outcry in the event college and professional football games in that state are played without fans in the seats. What would that mean for the Ontario Hockey League teams in the state?
The British Columbia Hockey League's situation was mentioned in that other guy's article last week. On Saturday Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry clarified her amended health order announced earlier last week. The amendment limited gatherings of 50 vehicles in addition to 50 people. “Even though 50 cars may seem like a small amount and it’s a less risky environment, we know if we get people together there would be several people in a vehicle, the chance of more contact and spread of this virus is very real,” Dr. Henry said Friday. Unreal.
The United States and North American Hockey Leagues appear to be in better shape, at least geographically, than their Canadian counterparts.
The USHL has only a few teams at risk of serious consequences for their state's restrictions. Chicago, Muskegon, and the USNTDP could have some issues.
The NAHL looks really good in all but a few areas.
Minnesota teams could face some challenges. The state's four phase plan does not allow for ANY large public gatherings and specifically mentions sporting events. Churches are now opening but restricted to just 25% of capacity. Springfield should not be facing same restrictions as the Chicago metro area. Chippewa and Janesville are in Wisconsin, a state where the governor appears to be folding to public pressure.
The biggest problem is certainly in the East Division and what happens there is anyone's guess. There have only been a pair of deaths in Jamestown, while Northern New Jersey was not so lucky. New Jersey's school restrictions could literally bankrupt a number of districts. The Titans have never drawn crowds, but will that state even allow a game to be played? In Maine, many popular summer events have been cancelled through August. In Maryland, Baltimore has cancelled all large summer events through the end of August. The NFL's Baltimore Ravens announced their intentions to compensate stadium workers if NFL games are played before a limited numbers of fans -- or no one at all -- due to social distancing requirements in the state. It also appears that Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is taking his cues from the others in his region and was the last to ease restrictions in his state.
Will there be ANY junior hockey in this region? As of today, that jury is still out.
Here's what we do know; there will be teams on the ice this season. Canada may wait until November to start and that's OK. The same could happen in the northeastern area of the United States.
I'm sorry to have to say this, but the November 3rd election could be a major turning point for the game of hockey and sports in general. Maybe then we'll be able to make our own personal choices regarding safety and social distancing. I don't know about all of you but I'm getting tired of seeing politicians doing their best impression of a third world dictator. If you want to hit a hockey game on Saturday before going to church on Sunday, why in the heck are we letting the yahoos interfere with our lives?
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