On Wednesday, the NHL had two fun announcements.
The first announcement was that the Minnesota Wild were shutting down for a week due to a COVID outbreak, joining five other teams who added to their COVID-releated abscences list.
The second announcement was that the Nashville Predators are super psyched to welcome fans back to their arena this month.
If you’re feeling the dissonance there, get ready for this next part.
On Thursday morning, Elliotte Friedman announced some changes the NHL is making to arena logistics “in an effort to slow the spread of the virus”:
That’s it. Three minor changes that will be ineffectual plus the consideration of possibly asking teams to maybe do something.
These changes might spur a fractional slowdown in the disease’s spread, but of course it won’t matter. This is hockey. This is the yelling and spitting sport.
Most of all, it’s the hugging sport.
Screenshots courtesy of NBC Sports Washington
So it’s just theater.
As of right now, we know of outbreaks with Buffalo, Chicago, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington. Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, LA, Pittsburgh, Vegas, and Winnipeg have all either experienced recent outbreaks or at least lost players to the COVID-related absences list. Ninety players have been on the list. Twenty-two games have been postponed. And at least one player is suffering a major career setback due to COVID.
Also on Wednesday, the NWHL, which had limited travel and fewer players, had to cancel its season/tournament because of COVID outbreaks.
Anyone who thinks this is working is just not paying attention.
🚨 Single-game tickets for February are on sale TOMORROW! 🚨https://t.co/yv0Q29zuxE
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) February 3, 2021
But we’re still going to do this because the league’s bottom line requires it. The players won’t do another bubble, and the owners have to get that profit. Outbreaks and illness and the resulting deaths to tangential people that we won’t learn about for months or years are just the costs of doing business right now. The disease is four times more prevalent than it was when the teams entered the bubble last summer. Now there’s no bubble, more virus, and way more travel.
So the guys will go on the ice and do their board battles and punch each other in the helmet and yell in each other’s faces, and then they’ll return to spit from a bench that has slightly improved air flow or hyperventilate in a locker room where they’re slightly farther apart.
For the record, I’m complicit in this too. I’m watching games, writing stories, and selling stuff related to hockey. And you’re reading me, which is a weird choice by you, but you do you.
Still, I’m stuck with this hypothetical: what would it actually take for the NHL to stop this? Half the teams get an outbreak? The absences list hits triple digits? Someone dies?
(Someone will die. Someone probably already has died, but they were the elderly family member of some support staff, and we can’t be positive they got sick from league activity, and that affords us all sufficient degrees of separation not to feel culpable for it.)
I don’t know what to do with all this dread. I just know next time I see anyone say they’re taking any action out of “an abundance of caution”, I’m calling bullshit.
The Blackhawks canceled their practice scheduled for Saturday.
The decision was made "out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19."
That and more in NHL Buzz:https://t.co/BlFyOimEFF
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) January 30, 2021
NHL makes an official announcement on Canes game and cites "abundance of caution" for safety and health reasons without any mention of COVID-19.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) January 19, 2021
The Canucks cancelled their training camp practices and workouts "out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19." More news and notes in the NHL training camp buzz. https://t.co/VpyXv3H3nJ
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) January 10, 2021
The Jets canceled their practice scheduled for Saturday "out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19."
That and more in NHL Buzz:https://t.co/9D1NqYW4K0
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) January 16, 2021
A number of Blue Jackets players missed practice Friday "out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols." https://t.co/ZlkMtBH9CE
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) January 8, 2021
The Columbus Blue Jackets have held a number of players out of today’s scheduled practice out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL Covid-19 protocols.
— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) January 8, 2021
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