It’s been less than 24 hours since the NHL announced it was suspending its league play for the indeterminable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA made a similar announcement the night before, and MLS and MLB followed not long after the NHL’s announcement. The PGA has closed tour events to fans, as has the XFL. The NCAA cancelled all spring and winter sports, including the Frozen Four tournament (hockey) and the massive basketball tournament, among others.
In what is usually the hottest portion of the sports calendar — NBA playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Masters, Opening Day, March Madness — sports fans are left nearly sport-less in a matter of days. For good reason — it seems like every hour brings more news of event cancellations, travel bans, declarations of states of emergency in cities and regions experiencing community spread, schools extending spring break closures, universities shifting to online classes and removing students from housing ASAP....the list goes on and on.
So while sports is one of the least important things in the hierarchy of actual needs, it does eliminate a common form of escapism that people use to de-stress or get away from what can be a pretty depressing real world for a short time. Which is why the Dallas Stars not being able to play games might hit our community in a weird way. The fact of the matter is safety of the players, staff, fans, arena workers, and anyone even tangentially involved in putting on those events is the highest priority.
Here’s what we know (or really, don’t) about the shutdown:
- There is no timetable for a return to play. The NBA reportedly told their teams to expect a minimum of 30 days before returning to action. I imagine the NBA and NHL return to play on similar timelines, given so many teams that play in the same arena and share training spaces, hotel rooms in opposing cities, etc. So at this point, there is no schedule of when games will be played or when the postseason may occur.
- Players are in a holding pattern. The Stars have told their players to remain in Dallas and to try to be low-key. There are no practices, meetings, skates, sessions in the training facilities — everything is on hold until the league determines how to move forward. Most will likely do training regiments similar to the offseason to try to keep themselves in game shape.
- It’s not just the players in a holding pattern, though. Front office staff is being encouraged to work from home. Arena and event workers that rely on hours to make a living have been put in a tough spot, though Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is hoping to help them out as he can with that. Scouts have been recalled to their home bases from assignments across the world.
- The minor league teams have followed suit. The AHL, ECHL, CHL, WHL, and OHL have all followed the example of the NHL by suspending their respective leagues.
- There is no way of knowing how the league resumes play. Is this a training camp-style break for the league? Will they allow a game or two of warm-up play before the points matter again? Do they end the regular season and decide post-season seeding based on points percentage since teams have played an uneven amount of games? We just don’t have answers to that right now.
- The Stars are working with ticket holders. Right now, tickets will be honored once (or if) games are played due to the postponement. Single game tickets purchased are subject to the postponement rules of the various outlets you may have purchased them from. Here’s more answers to common questions before you overload the Stars ticket staff with answers you can find here.
If you read that and think, gee, there’s a lot of unknowns there, you would be correct. This is an unprecedented time for the league. With 31 teams, 31 buildings, NBA games that are likely to be rescheduled, concerts and other events on the calendar (presumably), rescheduling a season is a massive undertaking. When you layer on that there is no way to say when people will be safely able to return to big events, or even if they can’t play with fans in attendance but choose to play games anyway, there’s so many moving parts to contend with. That doesn’t get figured out in a day, a week, or even a month.
Also consider that each league will have to figure out how this impacts next season. With a potentially shorter offseason, does the preseason get cut short? Do they cut the length of the regular season to give players time to recover and train after they finally finish this year? What implications will there be to the salary cap due to lost hockey-related revenues?
My head hurts just thinking about all of the rippling effects this has and I don’t even work in a league office.
As we get answers, we’ll of course pass along information to you. Until that point, we’re going to soldier on as best we can with our community. There will be hockey content (there’s plenty to unpack about the team as we take this wait-and-see approach) and there will also be some fun content. We all need some time to de-stress, including our staff here. We may have an entire thread on video games (leaving that one to my experts on staff, I get bored five minutes into Sonic the Hedgehog which is probably the last time I played a video game) or TV shows we’re watching. I’m working on a wine pairing list to go with hockey movie classics with one of the ladies over at The Ice Garden.
We also want to know what you want to discuss as we wade through these unknown waters. This is our community. We’re going to get through this together.