The sports world continues to be on hold as the United States and the world try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With each passing day, there are more and more discussions that start with, “When (fill in sport here) returns ... "
Now whether that’s growing optimism or stir crazy, wishful thinking remains to be seen. The leagues themselves, however, don’t have the luxury of waiting to figure things out. They need to be ready for anything and everything.
In the NHL, there have been countless scenarios discussed and a few that the league itself has even acknowledged as possibilities. Hockey Hall of Famer and former Flyers defenseman Mark Howe is now a scout for the Detroit Red Wings and said despite being a member of a front office, the future plans for the league remain cloudy at best.
“We’ve had a couple of conference calls with Steve Yzerman in Detroit, scouting related, and he filled us in on a little bit of what’s going on. What’s going on is there are plans all across the globe about what’s going to maybe happen,” Howe said this week in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia hockey analyst and former Flyer Chris Therien. “I think they're trying to get everyone to stay open-minded.”
Being open-minded seems to be key with the resumption of any sports play. The reality, though, is that the likelihood of the NHL playing games in teams' home arenas with fans grows grimmer by the week. No matter how or when play resumes, there will most certainly be health and safety protocols in place. This may include no fan attendance at all, but Howe knows the league is motivated to see the 2019-20 season to the finish, regardless of the residual effect on the league going forward.
“I do know, and I’ve heard, they do want to finish the season," Howe said. "They want to have a Stanley Cup champion, then worry about next year I guess after that.”
There have been only rumors about what could happen with next season. If the current season resumes, it would almost certainly go deep into the summer months for a team to finally hoist the Stanley Cup. While NHL training camps normally begin in September and a new season beginning in early October, under these unique circumstances, it seems like any and all scenarios are on the table.
“I think a lot of that just depends on what scientists come up with," Howe said. "I think it’s going to be hard to accomplish if things don’t improve.”
So while Howe waits for the call from his GM Yzerman in Detroit, the rest of us wait for some light at the end of the tunnel and for the game we love to return to the ice.
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