In some ways, the outcome of the NHL’s much-debated season might be getting closer to some sort of resolution.
And in others it might not.
Word has it the league’s plan to restart the campaign could be in the hands of the players as early as the middle of the week.
You’re probably familiar with most of the possible issues: Health of the players, the length of training camps to guard against injuries, how next year’s escrow payments shake out, travel safety and so forth.
Jumping up right to near the top of the list comes the decision on whether there should be a vote just among the 31 NHL Players’ Association reps (including the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk) or throw the balloting open to the entire membership.
From here, it would seem to make more sense to have everyone participate in the process.
There’s just too much at stake to let a handful of players make the decision in such monumental circumstances.
Besides that, it’s a good way to avoid what’s happening in baseball right now, i.e., having loose cannons like Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell and Cincinnati hurler Trevor Bauer trash MLB’s proposal over a suggested revenue split even before formal negotiations hit the conference table (or Zoom, I guess).
Giving all the NHL players a say in the matter also could allow an open discussion about how the league plans to ensure against the threat of the COVID-19 crisis.
League officials have gone on record to say testing will be early and often. Buildings and locker rooms figure to be sanitized on a daily basis.
But what if one player gets sick? Two, three, a dozen? What happens then?
So far, the NHL’s stance has been play will continue, even if multiple players fall ill. To complicate matters, as it stands right now, a player only will be tested if he shows symptoms.
You can be sure there are more than just a few players who have concerns about this arrangement, regardless of how much they’re getting paid.
Besides, how do you put a price tag on health? Even if players are in their 20s and 30s and are the picture of health, there’s no guarantee some of them won’t catch the virus.
It’s safe to say everyone is starved for the return of professional sports, even though it’s only been a couple months away from them.
No one is more passionate about this than the hockey players and their fans.
Yet cooler heads must prevail here. Especially at a time when someone like Snell says he doesn’t want to risk his health because he’s not getting paid enough for such a dangerous venture.
The last thing hockey needs is for someone to start squawking about not making enough money. Especially when 36 million – repeat, 36 million – Americans have filed for unemployment.
If hockey is determined to crown a Stanley Cup champion for the 2019-20 season, at least make it look good. Don’t have owners whining about the possibility of losing a good chunk of their $4 billion TV contract money either.
In the end, should this experiment be allowed to start, it will be fascinating to watch.
There’s even been talk of piping artificial crowd noise into the empty buildings on TV broadcasts to make them sound more realistic.
Sort of like the old laugh tracks from sit-coms.
Heck, forget the fake cheering. We wouldn’t mind an arena quiet enough to hear Flyers coach Alain Vigneault shouting instructions to his players in a rather heated fashion.
Now that might produce a real laugh track of its own.