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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Today’s column is at the suggestion of my 11-year-old grandson Aiden who in the last few days has been doing a lot of thinking about this.
Eleven year olds don’t generally get a voice in this sort of thing, but here goes.
“Tell the NHL officials they should still play in empty arenas so their games could be on TV,” he said.
“The teams need to play on television because so many people are going to be at home and having hockey games to watch would be good,” he said of the percentage of people who are going to choose to be self-grounded due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic situation.
It’s difficult to explain to an 11 year old who was given a Connor McDavid Oilers third jersey by his dad that he would wear from the time he gets up until he goes to bed if you’d let him, about the NHL still being to a large degree a gate-driven league, etc.
But he figures having hockey to still watch on TV while people are being asked to mostly stay home would make everybody happier and healthier so they should do it.
Well, I like the way the kid thinks. So I told him I’d write a column suggesting that this is maybe what they might want to consider doing.
The reason spectator sports are such a big part of life throughout the world is that they provide people with a compelling distraction and escape from their daily lives.
All varieties of entertainment, of course, do that to some degree. But the thing that makes sports different is that day-in and day-out, following a team makes people care. Investing your interest in a team, particularly in a season like we’d just been experiencing in the Western Conference of the NHL that has involved a perhaps unprecedented degree of out-of-town scoreboard watching throughout the second half of the schedule, has added to the quality of life of the people who do it.
On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the day the world of sports “paused” as we have known it, people lost that.
Oilers President of Business Ops and COO Tom Anselmi actually made reference to that in his availability Friday.
“When 9-11 happened, sports was a real escape for people. The World Series really helped New York heal. Interestingly we don’t have sports to help us this time,” said Anselmi who was able to announce Saturday that the Oilers would not be like the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets and do their fans proud by looking after their part-time arena workers.
While sports leagues were lining up to announce they were shutting down until further notice and events were being cancelled all over the map including World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championship in Halifax and the World Women’s Curling in Prince George, B.C. the one that made little sense to me was the curling.
The pebbled sheets of curling ice had been installed in the arena with the curlers already in town and the TV cameras in position. All they had to do was lock the doors and turn the fans away. Other than eliminating the end-of-game handshakes, they were good to go.
Curling became one of the centre ring sports of the five-ring circus that is the Olympic Winter Games because of TV numbers created by weather problems at outdoor venues where TV commentators stood and said “… and now back to curling.”
It was interesting that the UFC didn’t shut down. The next two events scheduled in North America have been relocated, the March 28 event in Columbus, Ohio and the April 11 event in Portland, Oregon will both now be held in the new UFC Apex Complex in Las Vegas where it has a small arena and television production capabilities.
Maybe it doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense to have 31 NHL teams flying all over North America, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and playing in empty 18,000-seat arenas.
But maybe, with virtually the rest of the entire world of sports on “pause” and considering that they’re paying the players anyway, there opportunity here for hockey.
Maybe if health officials believed the nature of the sport of sport would present little possibility of the players infecting each other and the players voted to play, the show should go on.
Maybe a league that was willing to give their fans their games on TV at a time most would be spending an inordinate amount of time at home, would stand to benefit in the long term despite the loss of immediate revenue at the gate.
Maybe ‘March Madness’ fans would start watching hockey games. Maybe major league baseball fans, NBA fans, MLS fans, would become hockey fans.
So how would you do it?
There was a suggestion on Twitter out of Saskatchewan (two cases confirmed) that some teams should head there.
“Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States, live from Estevan, Saskatchewan, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins.”
Or maybe just play them in their NHL buildings with no fans in the stands, regardless. I can hear legendary Vancouver broadcaster Jim Robson who used to say hello to the “shut ins” at some stage of every game he called.
Anyway, that’s what my 11-year-old grandson thinks they should do.
Hey I gave it my best shot, kid. And you might be right.
The way this is trending I can’t see the NHL playing before fans in the stands until next fall.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020