By Bruce Penton
So, how are the National Hockey League playoffs working out, as teams battle for Lord Stanley’s cup in two no-fan ‘bubbles’ — one in Toronto, the other in Edmonton?
There’s only one word for it – bubbleicious.
Other words, far scarier ones, hovered over the situation before the hockey got under way Aug. 1. ‘Precarious,’ for one. How could approximately 400 people — players, executives, trainers, equipment personnel, not to mention a handful of media — stay isolated for possibly up to two months and avoid someone contracting the coronavirus and having it spread? How about ‘risky’? Yes, that too.
Through three weeks, it turns out the best word to describe the situation is ‘ingenious’. All games have been played without incident; no positive cases have been reported, despite widespread testing; and it appears as if the 2019-20 NHL season will determine a Stanley Cup champion after all, despite huge odds.
The NBA is following the NHL’s ‘bubble’ lead and reporting similar success, but other sports aren’t as lucky. U.S. college football has basically thrown in the towel on the fall season. Major League Baseball has cancelled or postponed dozens of games due to the spread of COVID-19. Miami Marlins at one point had 19 members of their team — players and non-players alike — with a positive test. St. Louis Cardinals were also victimized. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred laid down the law: Either the players, who agreed to accept 37 per cent of their contractual compensation for this season, conform to the strict rules of virus avoidance or run the risk of the season being abandoned.
Still to come: The National Football League, which has billions of TV money at stake, has gone to great training-camp lengths to try to start the 2020 season on time and complete it. Empty stadiums are likely, although some teams are talking about a ‘pod’ system, where a few hundred (or thousand) fans would be allowed to attend games in a stadium where every other section is closed off. Still, with NFL teams planning to travel, it’s hard to imagine a virus-free season as the NHL has so far — fingers crossed — managed to accomplish with its playoffs-in-a-bubble.
As for the Canadian Football League? No definitive news yet, although Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and fans across the country are still hopeful. Junior hockey plans to restart in the West around Dec. 1. Without an NHL-style bubble system, however, the fate of all sports is perhaps described in one word: Doubtful.
• Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade, on broadcaster Elliotte Friedman’s major whisker growth: “Friedman’s epic chin whiskers are so thick and unruly that O.J. plans to make them his next stop in the search for the real killers.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker was charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm in Florida. As it was Florida, Baker’s attorney will defend him by pointing out he was not naked, he was not on meth and it did not involve relations with an alligator.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts was listed as day to day with a swollen middle finger. ‘We feel your pain,’ said fans in Philadelphia.”
• Bob Molinaro in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: “Sarcasm ahead: I don’t know how baseball people were able to judge the greatness of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays without knowing the launch angle and exit velocity of their home runs.”
• Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com, via Twitter, on Nationals catcher Tres Barrera’s 80-game suspension for testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone: “If he can spell it on the first try, they should reduce his suspension to 40 games.”
• Comedian Argus Hamilton, via Facebook: “How can we trust the people in Washington, D.C., to run this country when they can’t even come up with a name for their football team?”
• David Brandt, on Twitter: “The AP’s @Steve_Wine sums up 2020 baseball in one sentence. MIAMI — Scrambling for replacements following a coronavirus outbreak, the Miami Marlins are adding a Moran, a Morin, two pitchers named Josh Smith and a former Olympic medallist in speedskating.”
• Jay Hart of yahoo.com, on a possible ‘pod’ plan for NFL stadiums, where every other section will be empty to allow fans proper social distancing: “It’s basically the plan the Cincinnati Bengals have employed the last few seasons, albeit unintentionally.”
• Dan Daly of @DanDalyOnSports, on Indians pitcher Zach Plesac violating health and safety protocols by leaving the team hotel in Chicago and going out with friends: “You’d think a sport that’s so big on Unwritten Rules would do a better job of following written ones.”
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