How Close Are We to Hockey Again?

Gary Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been in close contact with several important officials during this process. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Without sports, I’ve resorted to watching old games from years past. Just the other night, MSG Networks replayed the 1988 New Jersey Devils beating the New York Islanders in their first playoff series win. There was a guy in the crowd wearing a New York Rangers jersey with a New Jersey Devils bumper stick over the word “Rangers,” which was confusing, to say the least.

Sports still are not back and that sucks. The good news is this week has been a major step forward to getting NHL hockey back. Even if there was some bad news mixed in, such as the MLS saying they won’t resume play in mid-May as previously hoped, the good far outweighed the bad.

What Dr. Fauci Says

The most critical piece from this past week was Dr. Fauci’s interview on the return of sports. Fauci explained that sports could come back if they followed two directions: no fans and all players stay in a hotel and are tested. Those rules aren’t anything new. In fact, they’ve been long speculated by sports fans and sports leagues alike. However, they were just that, speculation, and thinking out loud as a desperate attempt to save the season. With Fauci’s seal of approval, it’s almost a de facto declaration that this plan is possibly safe.

What the President Does

Remember when I talked about watching that over 30-year-old Devils game? Well, I’m not the only one watching old sporting events. President Trump even made a joke out of watching old baseball games in a press conference this week.

Speaking of President Trump, a few weeks back he held a phone conference with the nation’s sports-league commissioners to talk about their returns. In the grand scheme of things, the talks were preliminary and more Trump touching base with the sports industry. The biggest development to come out was the belief that the NFL would start on time and as scheduled.

Anyone who’s watched the news this week knows that President Trump’s main focus now is re-opening the country. In the past few days, he’s formed a council of advisors to do just that. The wide-spreading council features politicians and businessmen alike, including the commissioners of major sports league. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman himself is a part of it, non-surprisingly.

Why is this a significant development? By including these commissioners in the broader and, for lack of a better word, “official” push to re-open the economy it brings the restarting of sports synonymous with opening the country. Sports were always thought of in the equation, but this makes them specifically linked. The conversation can now turn from “when will sports come back” to “how sports will come back”.

There’s still a lot more to be done, but for now, the tone of the conversation turned optimistic. Sports as we know it, with thousands of fans, may be even further away. But, this is a step in the right direction. We have to start somewhere for there to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

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