By Cole Parkinson
Alta Newspaper Group – Taber
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is really putting a damper on my transition to spring.
Usually, I have the NHL and NBA playoffs, and the start of the MLB season to look forward to, but not this year.
All three leagues have postponed their seasons, and in the case of the NHL and NBA, it may be the end of their 2019/2020 campaigns if things don’t turn around quickly.
Other sports weren’t safe from the Coronavirus either as Augusta National Golf Club has announced The Masters have been postponed to a later date, most likely this fall.
Other leagues around the world though have also closed or postponed their seasons including Major League Soccer. The annual NCAA March Madness tournament has also fallen victim to cancellation, so the next month and a bit is going to be dry in terms of watching sports.
Now while this sucks as a sports fan, I totally get why these decisions have been made.
The safety of players, fans, management, arena workers and everyone else is obviously the most important thing, especially since the World Health Organization has upgraded COVID-19 to the pandemic level.
And with confirmed cases of Coronavirus within the NBA, it was absolutely necessary to put off playing games for the foreseeable future.
With two Utah Jazz players confirmed at the start of March, it will probably only be a matter of time until more and more NBA players are announced to have contracted the virus.
And with many cities sharing facilities between their NHL and NBA teams, it probably won’t be long until several NHL players are confirmed to have caught COVID-19.
With both the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the playoffs (at least one for sure was anyways), it sucks not knowing if this will be the end of the year for both leagues.
And while both the NBA and NHL have released statements saying it’s only a postponement, who knows if and when both leagues will get back when things cool down.
With both leagues in the final weeks of their seasons, a best-case scenario would be to return in May and at that point, you’d have to think the regular season would be forfeited with teams with the best points percentage entered into the playoffs.
If that is the case, how good will the playoffs be for either league after players have been off for weeks without games, practices or any kind of team functions?
Especially the NHL playoffs where it’s not even close to the same atmosphere, intensity or style of game compared to the regular season.
Cohesiveness between teammates will almost be non-existent if players are asked to immediately ramp up into playoff games.
Also, any team in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NHL or NBA will no doubt have a gripe if the regular season is ended and teams with higher points percentages make the big dance automatically.
I would expect there to be some major upsets in both playoffs because every team will be entering with zero momentum and whichever team can get that cohesiveness back quicker will no doubt have a big advantage.
And now there’s talk about 24 teams entered into the NHL playoffs instead of the usual 16, which I don’t think is a great idea.
Injuries would also be a major concern for players in both basketball and hockey.
Having a month or more off before jumping into the most important games of the year would not be an easy thing to do.
It’s pretty hard at any level to sit out for a long amount of time with no practice and immediately get the engined fired up to where it needs to be especially when there’s a championship on the line.
The other question stemming from postponing is what will happen to the 2020/2021 seasons in the NHL and NBA.
If games go until late July or early August, that pushes back everything from the draft, free agency and the beginning of next season.
I would suspect that training camps would be cut down significantly if both leagues want to start at their regular times in October.
While baseball will also see their regular-season start pushed back by a minimum of two weeks, they will have the benefit of having a longer season which almost guarantees they will see a World Series winner in 2020.
Whether they play a full 162 game schedule remains to be seen though and if reports are to be believed that the season may not start until June or July, I highly doubt 162 MLB regular season games will be played per team.
And once any of these leagues do come back, it’s very likely it will be without fans in the seats.
These are strange times we are living in.
While we have seen lockouts and player strikes in the past several years, namely 2004/2005 with the NHL lockout and 1993 with the MLB players’ strike which resulted in no trophy being handed out, this will be a completely new scenario we haven’t seen in years.
The last time the NHL dealt with a pandemic disease resulting in the shutdown of the league was the 1918/1919 season after a rash of Spanish Flu hit the league during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the Montreal Canadiens faced off against the Seattle Metropolitans in the final, no team received the Stanley Cup after Canadiens’ forward Joe Hall died of the result of the Spanish Flu.
The NBA meanwhile has handed out the Larry O’Brien Trophy (formerly the Walter A. Brown Trophy or just the NBA Finals Trophy) every year since their inception in the 1946/1947.
The World Series has been handed out every year except for in 1904 due to a ‘business rivalry’ between the American League and National League and of course, 1994.
So we are no doubt in a time like no other with all these postponed and cancelled seasons.
One can only hope that with all of this self-quarantine going on, we can get a handle on the spread of Coronavirus and get back to our regular day to day.