Would fans leave vacations to watch ice hockey in August?

Flyers fans might be getting back together with Gritty if things return to normal by August.

With each passing day it would seem our thoughts turn more toward health and safety in the home and less about non-essential activities like organized sports.

Yes, speculation about when/if television-worthy games will return occasionally crosses our minds.

But there appears to be an attitude of “whenever.’’ If they resume when the crisis subsides (providing that is the case), fine.

No one, though, is losing sleep over whether a sport like hockey restarts this suspended season, sets a postponement date or calls the whole thing off.

There were stories published this past week suggesting the National Hockey League has been in quiet negotiations with the NHL Players’ Association over a possible return in late July/early August.

Reportedly, a contingent of players is knocking around the idea of attempting to get things going again sometime around early July with a training camp, followed by resumption of the season at the start of August.

The proposal might include a shortened version of the remaining dozen or so games from the regular season (to give bubble teams one last chance to get into the big dance), followed by a two-month playoff run in September and October.

From there, there would be a one-month break for the draft, free agency, etc., and then the start of the 2020-21 season in November with a compacted schedule to complete the campaign on time in June, 2021.

In theory, the concept has merit. Players simply will get their offseason from now until the end of June, instead of June through August.

And, of course, everyone in the sport is concerned about lost revenue. Some estimate the game could lose upwards of a billion dollars, based on the fact that the NHL draws considerably more money from ticket sales than any of the other three North American professional sports.

That’s why the NHL is conducting a conference call on Monday, essentially allowing billionaires (the owners) to argue with millionaires (the players) over how to divvy up what’s left of the broken piggybank.

Certainly that has to be comforting to the average person out there who is waiting in line to be tested for COVID-19 and wondering if he/she has enough money in the bank to keep putting food on the table.

Plus, we’re wondering just what hockey fans are going to feel about breaking up their 100-year routine of watching ice skaters in the cold weather months from October to March (followed by the playoffs).

Many Americans take their vacations in the warm weather months and the presumption is that a lot of them already have made plans to go away – be it in a luxury hotel in Colorado or a beach house rental down the Jersey Shore.

For season ticketholders, this is a bit of a quandary. Sure, one can head down to Cape May the first week of August and then commute back and forth to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to watch the Flyers play their last handful of games.

We’re also certain a lot of them would be willing to give up Labor Day weekend trips to see the Flyers in a first-round playoff series.

But from this vantage point, there’s just something a little weird about marching into the WFC on a 95-degree day when one could be splashing in the waves at Wildwood or taking a bike ride on Long Beach Island.

Here’s the thing: No one knows how long this pandemic is going to last. What if you set dates to resume action, people change their vacation plans and then the whole thing falls through?

This is how much things have changed on a daily basis: Just last week, people were wondering if the possible restart of the NHL season on Aug. 1 would conflict with NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Now, with each passing day, there is an increased call for the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games until 2021. To wit, both United States swimming and track-field organizations are asking for a postponement, as have all organizing bodies in Norway. Expect American gymnastics and other countries to follow.

It’s puzzling to hear NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talk about preserving “the integrity of the Stanley Cup.’’

Where was that sort of rhetoric in 2005 when the league decided to deep-six an entire season over money (i.e. salary cap) issues?

Right now we’re engaged in a world war against an invisible enemy and professional sports officials are whispering about ways to cut their losses.

Tell it to the guy waiting in the testing line.

 

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 895 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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