I admit I was skeptical.
Back in the spring, the notion of playing the Stanley Cup playoffs in a “double bubble’’ format seemed dicey at best.
The NHL believed it could put together a safe environment even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged through the Northeast, especially in New York and New Jersey.
Many people rolled their eyes. It didn’t seem possible anyone could get 700 young hockey players to stay holed up in a hotel for two weeks to two months.
Yet now, at the end of August and the playoffs one-quarter completed, not a single player has tested positive for coronavirus. Unlike some other major professional sports, hockey has figured out a way to make this thing work in adverse conditions.
That’s a credit not only to the league, but to the players.
It’s safe to say they’ve followed the league’s strict protocols and substituted ping pong, video games and swimming pool competitions for a night on the town.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault has been praising the NHL for its ability to pull this off.
On Saturday, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher added to that, stating the players have done a good job in a challenging time like this.
“The players deserve a tremendous amount of credit,’’ Fletcher said during a late-morning Zoom call from Toronto. “Today is Day 28 for us up here, we’ve played 10 games. There’s a lot of structure, there are a lot rules that you have to follow.
“You see guys walking around, they have their masks on, everyone’s doing the right thing. Everyone’s away from their families for a while. We’re doing this because we want to win. I think everybody is taking that seriously and respecting the kind of commitment that everyone’s made to be here. I give them a lot of credit. It’s just a great set-up here.’’
>Milbury latest with insensitive remarks
When are these people going to learn?
For the second time in less than a year, NBC has had to take disciplinary action against one of its broadcasters for insensitive remarks.
In late December, former Flyer Jeremy Roenick was let go from the network for off-color comments made about studio host Kathryn Tappen and analyst Patrick Sharp (another ex-Flyer).
Now it’s Mike Milbury’s turn to face the music.
The former Boston Bruins went on the air during Thursday night’s Washington-New York Islander game and said, in so many words, that it’s a good thing there aren’t women in the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton because they would be a “distraction.’’
Both NBC and the NHL issued statements condemning that sort of language.
“The National Hockey League condemns the insensitive and insulting comment that Mike Milbury made during last night’s broadcast and we have communicated our feelings to NBC,” the league said in its statement. “The comment did not reflect the NHL’s values and commitment to making our game more inclusive and welcoming to all.”
Milbury was scheduled to work NBCSN’s coverage of the Flyers-Montreal Game 6 on Friday night but was yanked and replaced by Eddie Olczyk.
Former Flyer Brian Boucher, who serves as the rinkside analyst, made a comment which Milbury responded to and that touched off the firestorm on social media.
“If you think about it, it’s a terrific environment with regard to — if you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” Boucher said.
Milbury then stuck his foot in his mouth.
“Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration,” Milbury replied.
On Friday, he was in complete damage control mode.
“It was not my intention to disrespect anyone,” Milbury said in a statement released by NBC. “I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
NBC Sports said it was “disappointed about Mike’s insensitive comment’’ but had not issued any statement regarding Milbury’s future.
If Milbury is let go, not many hockey fans will shed a tear. In the eyes of numerous followers of the sport, he does not bring a lot to the table.
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