Necessity, once wrote the Greek philosopher Plato, is the mother of invention.
In times like this, that adage could apply to professional sports — there could very well be a need to change the very structure of them, particularly a game like ice hockey.
With the NHL on indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 crisis, team owners, management and players have already been discussing the possibilities of completing a season if the chance presents itself.
During a media conference call on Tuesday night, the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk said that should things get better here and abroad and pucks are put back in motion, an opportunity to change the playoff format could be there for the taking.
“Ultimately it’s going to come down to timing and how we can fit everything in,’’ van Riemsdyk said from his in-laws’ home in Minnesota where he’s staying during the quarantine period.
“In a perfect world, obviously you would like to finish the regular season (the Flyers have 13 games left) and play it out as it may. If some of those timeframes become a little too shortened and we can’t fit that in, it kind of creates a unique opportunity.’’
“In my opinion, maybe try something unique with the playoffs structure,’’ said van Riemsdyk, who is the Flyers’ representative to the National Hockey League Players’ Association. “I know that’s been talked about in the last couple years. Maybe add some more teams to it.
“In a situation like we’re in this year, it would be a free chance to try something a little outside the box maybe and see what might work.’’
The Flyers’ season was scheduled to end on Saturday in Buffalo and the first round of playoffs tentatively would have begun – at the earliest – the following Wednesday (April 8).
Now it’s anybody’s guess when (if?) that will eventually happen.
“We’ll cross those bridges when we get there,’’ JVR said. “If it gets to the point where we don’t have time to play out the regular season, which I’m sure everyone would like to do, then we can be more creative in trying something outside the box with the playoff structure.
“That will be dictated by what goes on in the next couple months and when things are able to get going again.’’
Van Riemsdyk reported his rehabilitation from a broken right index finger is going along well. He’s not able to grip a hockey stick yet but that’s not big deal because it’s going to be awhile before he needs to.
“Things are on course to be healing well,’’ he said. “I’ll have another check-in with the doctor next week.
“I haven’t touched a stick yet. I can’t lift anything that weighs more than a pound. Just doing mostly passive stuff.’’
JVR has assembled a makeshift gym in his in-laws’ basement to try to stay in a semblance of shape.
“I’m just trying to maintain my fitness,’’ he said. “Sticking with the part of my routine I can stick with. It’s a bit of a different dynamic. You just try to make it work the best you can.’’
Van Riemsdyk keeps in contact with his teammates to get their input and exchange of ideas.
“This is such a unique situation,’’ he said. “In the sense of how much correspondence there is. . .it honestly feels like around the times of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiations. There are lots of updates to give guys. They can change by the day, by the hour. We’re trying to keep guys in the loop as far as what’s going on.
“At this point, everyone’s concern is just the healthy and safety of the families and society in general. At this stage, everyone seems to be gathering information.’’
As to speculation of when the game might return, JVR says that’s the hardest idea to grasp.
“Not just us but everyone in the world, I feel like there’s uncertainty around everything,’’ he said. “It’d be nice if you sit at home for a month and then everything will go back to normal. That would be a lot easier for everyone to handle. It feels like everyone is running in place right now.’’
Asked if he’s optimistic the season will continue, the Middletown, N.J. native said he remains somewhat positive.
“I’d like to think things in that line versus the other way where you could think about how are we going to get this thing done and find a way,’’ he said. “But ultimately we want to guarantee the safety of everyone involved. This is a way bigger issue than sports or business.’’
When the stoppage hit, the Flyers were on a 9-1 run and the hottest team in the NHL. Can they get that momentum back if play resumes?
“We were on a nice run there,’’ JVR said. “That momentum comes to a halt. That being said, we realize this (crisis) is bigger than sports. It’s about people’s livelihoods, their health. We’re all trying to do our part in doing the things we’re supposed to be doing.
“But it’s definitely disappointing in the sense that we felt good about what we were building. We want to try to continue that at some point.’’
>Hockey community answers the call
In recent days, we’ve seen the Bauer Company switch its technology from making hockey faceshields to creating ones for medical personnel. Hockey teams and players have been making large donations to arena workers, many of whom are on furlough, lacking health benefits and enough money for food.
“That’s been great to see,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “You see all these initiatives going on around the world and the sports community. Different guys stepping up. I know in Philadelphia some have stepped up to help kids get meals with school canceled. We’re all part of the same society and we want to try to do our part.’’