All we keep hearing from the NHL are proposals for completing the pandemic-halted season and then reaction by players.
Maybe we should be getting some feedback from the people that matter the most – the fans.
Aren’t they the ones who not only subsidize the sport but show up religiously to supply the energy for the spectacle that is hockey?
And yet this is what we get on a daily basis: The NHL is willing to play in empty buildings with not a fan in sight.
Yes, it’s all suggested in the name of health and social distancing. We get that. What we don’t get is why team owners and league officials aren’t reaching out to their constituency to learn how the loyal patron feels.
No problem. We will do it for them.
A quick survey of fans around the area came up with a consensus the season really isn’t worth salvaging if a lot of conditions aren’t met.
As Scott Adams, a former NHL/AHL linesman and off-ice official points out, player safety should be placed high up on the list of considerations.
“For the sake of injuries alone, I would not (re)start the (2019-20) season,’’ Adams said. “As much as I would love to see hockey, it would almost be like the preseason, which is a bit of a letdown instead of high-intensity hockey.’’
The idea of playing games in silent surroundings doesn’t sit well with Ed Hilt, former Flyers beat writer for the Atlantic City (N.J.) Press.
Imagine if they had played Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup finals with not a fan in the stands? Would it still stand as one of the most iconic moments in Philadelphia sports history?
“Having games in empty buildings doesn’t seem right to me,’’ Hilt said. “The fans in the stands play a huge part in the experience.’’
Like Adams, Hilt believes the NHL should shut it down and his point of contention is everything possible should be done to stop the virus outbreak.
“I don’t think the NHL should try to finish the season,’’ Hilt said. “I would be concerned for the health of everyone involved. Not only the players but everyone who has a part in staging a National Hockey League game.
“I would also be concerned about this contributing to the spread of COVID-19, even though I know the NHL would go to extraordinary measures to keep everyone safe.’’
Doylestown’s Scott Mann played hockey in his youth and his passion for the sport – particularly the Flyers – continues to this day.
Mann agrees with Adams concerning the risk of injuries to players. A two-week training camp probably wouldn’t be enough to ensure a player’s health, given that hardly anyone has skated in nearly two months.
“Too many what ifs,’’ Mann said. “I think it would raise the risk of injury. Players skating around out of game shape wondering ‘should I take the body check or deliver the body check?’ That is a recipe for many injuries.
“I don’t think the players will be in game shape, physically or mentally. I say shut it down so there is closure for the players and organizations. Then the mental and physical preparation for next season can resume.’’
Anthony Schanz, born and raised in the Philadelphia area, tries to watch the Flyers as much as possible. He wonders what a scenario of no fans in the stands would look and sound like.
“How would the players feel, playing in an arena with no fans?’’ Schanz said. “Don’t they thrive off of us, especially the Flyers? We have some of the most passionate fans in all sports.’’
The NHL says part of its motive for wanting to play again is to give fans something to cheer for, even if they have to do it from their homes.
Which is why Schanz wants to see all sports return at some point, as long as it’s safe.
“Personally, sports is a big part of our lives,’’ Schanz said. “It’s the bond that brings our family together like no other. I think we’re struggling without it.’’
On Friday, it was announced that the NHL/NHL Players’ Association had agreed to cancel all international events for the remainder of 2020.
Shortly after, sources disclosed on social media that the American Hockey League – which includes the Flyers’ affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms – is close to cancelling the remainder of its season.
Perhaps this is a foreshadowing for the NHL.
“Sad this season must stand,’’ Adams said. “Prepare for next year. Call it a day.’’