COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the NHL

Multiple teams have lost games and several others have shut down operations due to COVID-19 concerns. What's the path moving forward for the NHL?

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: We usually go from barn to barn, reporter to reporter to set up hockey night in Canada. Like the first thing you see, McKenzie, to Bukakis, and we see all the people that are setting up these games. But there's only one game in the 7 o'clock window, what was supposed to be Vancouver and Toronto for the main station was just Philly and Ottawa. We had five postponed games. We had five games played on Saturday night. So half the schedule on a Saturday right before Christmas was wiped out due to COVID-19.

We've got outbreaks in Calgary, Boston, Toronto, Nashville, Florida, Edmonton, and other places. Edmonton was able to play despite that upgrade, or that outbreak rather. Multiple teams shut down. Others can play through, but we got a problem here. We got things going on right now and questions and decisions need to be made. So again, in terms of the NHL, because you have your personal thoughts on what's going on, and how it's affecting your life, but what's going on with the NHL? What should happen? What do you think's going to happen? What's the deal right now?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I just feel with the rise in COVID cases amongst players and teams just shutting down, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw more and more teams straight up just say, you know what? We're shutting it down. Well the league just says, we're just going to shut this team down through Boxing Day. That being said, this is just my personal feeling about it. If I was a player playing on a team that was still able to play through Boxing Day, I'd feel a little bit peeved.

Why is it that all these other teams, yes, they had the COVID cases that they had. But the league said, OK, you know what? This is kind of nuts. We're just going to shut you down. Why not go the full way through and, say you know what, we let's try to mitigate the spread as much as we can, let's shut every team down through December 26?

If I'm on the Canadiens who are supposed to be playing Monday, Wednesday, and I think even Thursday or Friday of next week, I don't remember honestly. Probably not Friday because it would be Christmas Eve. But Monday and the Wednesday for sure, they're playing and-- Monday and Wednesday, and I think the Thursday for sure, they're going to play. I'd be like, yo, we don't want anything like that going on. We should be able to shut it down. In fact, I think Artturi Lehkonen is on COVID protocol. That was announced yesterday just kind of lost in the midst of everything.

I know I have the Canadiens focus that I do. But yeah, if I see that, I'm thinking, well, all these other teams, that's how it started. One guy turns to three guys, turns to so many other players, turns into a shutdown. If I'm playing in the NHL right now, and I'm on a team that actively is still playing, has not been shut down, I'm wondering, well how long until my team is shut down through Boxing Day? And with the way the COVID protocol is right now, if you end up in COVID protocol, at this point, it's so close to Christmas.

If your family is in the city that you're playing the market in, you might not be able to be around your family. You might be in isolation right now. It's way too risky. I think right now if you're an NHL team, if you're the league, I would think I would like it if teams were able to shut down through Boxing Day. Are they going to do that? I don't know. Because I just don't. I think the fact that they want games on, at least to get whatever revenue they can get, whatever they could do to not delay the schedule even more than they have to, maybe they're going to cut into that three week break in February to schedule some games.

I don't know. But it just kind of feels like the NHL, and this goes for other leagues around the world too who are trying to do this. Yes, they realize that COVID is a problem and they're going to have to shut teams down, and they're really affected by it. But they want the show to go on. And they want it to keep trucking along. I would want it to be different. But I think the NHL is going to try to keep pushing this until they're at a point where they absolutely cannot.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, in a perfect world, there would be a shutdown, a little bit of a reset. Let's try to clean the slate, let's try to get everybody healthy. Let's enhance the measures. Let's get back to it. Let's see if we can operate in a safer space here moving forward knowing that there's going to be some hiccups along the way. But there are a lot of reasons why they're not going to do that. I feel like the number one factor is the money situation obviously. They just want to keep pushing through because if they can push through, then they can get some gate and keep the revenue stream going. They can fight through this and everyone will get their games in eventually.

And they'll find a way to get through the schedule. The other thing, though, is the Olympic piece. It's like this massive game of chicken. All this is happening around these two sides. They're just staring at each other. Who's going to budge first? And I feel like if there is an agreement to a shutdown either way, it sort of takes the Olympic piece out of the question. The NHL could, I feel like, drop the hammer and just say, hey, we're stopping here and we can't go to the Olympics. Because we agreed that if there was any disruption to the schedule, then it's going to be made up then.

But guess what? They booked out those arenas for those three weeks and they can't just magically place Schedule B in front of everybody and just roll with it. So there's a lot of things that are going on obviously. And I think one of the big things is the idea of players playing while symptomatic, or only testing when players are symptomatic. Sorry, players playing when they're asymptomatic. And B, the tests only happening when they're symptomatic. Interestingly, Steven Stamkos has been very, I wouldn't say philosophical, but he's brought some interesting ideas to the table here.

And every time he speaks, it seems like people should listen. He gave a different view on the Olympics, which is interesting from his position as someone who hasn't been to the Olympics, but obviously deserves to be an Olympian based on his career. But he said this quote. And it's, the good thing is that no one is getting sick. And I get that. A lot of people are saying that. But maybe it's time to finesse some things. And I wonder what he means by finessing some things. Is it to only test when you're symptomatic, which is something the NFL is going to do and trying to play through this?

And I think that's really the growing sentiment is that players, and the league, and everybody is very encouraged by the fact that nobody, or very few people are getting really sick. This has become something that is a nuisance. It's become a worry that you're going to get stuck across a border and not be able to get home for Christmas. That is the main thing here, not, oh crap. This guy is going to the hospital because he's really sick and can't breathe with this disease.

That's not what the conversation is. So if they're going to get through this season, I think maybe that's why the players don't want to shut down because the Olympic thing. But they want to keep moving and they want to keep playing even when this virus is present is because they believe they can play through this. And I wonder if that's what Stephen Stamkos is getting to. Maybe it's enhanced measures. I don't really know. Maybe it's a reduced schedule. I have no idea what he's pointing to.

But we know the NFL is moving toward, if you're only you're going to get tested if you're symptomatic, you're just going to play otherwise, college bowl season is happening right now. And there's literally nothing, no word on COVID-19. They are oblivious to everything. They are just playing. It doesn't matter. A lot of it's happening in the South. And we know the differences in where people stand there. But I don't think that they're fazed by this at all because they are gleefully and blissfully just sort of looking the other way.

Now I don't think that the NHL, and the NBA, and the NFL will be in that position. I think they're going to follow the leader mentality. And that is important, the follow the leader mentality. Because it looks like the NFL is going towards to save its postseason, hey, test when you're symptomatic. If the NHL gets there, then there's no question they're going to be able to play this schedule. Maybe that increases the chances going to the Olympics. But right now, if you shut down every time there's a positive test as is, and just keep trying to play, it's going to spread and the games and the schedules are going to be completely out of whack.

And I don't know if they can move forward with that whether or not they have a hiatus or not. It's going to be something that they just have to push through. And everything else is going to be complicated. Or they reduce measures a little bit. And I don't know if that's the best thing. I'm not an epidemiologist. I don't know if there are long term effects to getting this version of COVID. But it seems like that's where we're headed.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Neither of us are epidemiologists or anything of the sort. But when I hear the idea that players who are only symptomatic should be tested, isn't that problematic in itself too? I mean, yes, you could be asymptomatic. But you could still carry on--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I was just going to say, we need information on symptomatic spread. And clearly if the NFL is going there, and the NHL is maybe leaning towards going there, there's got to be some evidence that symptomatic spread is the only spread, or the only meaningful spread.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. But I mean, I'd like to know about, I mean, from what I've understood, that even if you are asymptomatic, you could still carry COVID-19. So that's that's a bit of a problem if you're just going to test only certain people and then leave the other people who are just like, OK, I'm asymptomatic. I mean what are the measures going to be for those people? What's going to be done for them to mitigate the spread? Because you don't want to be a situation where you're only testing people with obvious symptoms and you're leaving other people who, fine. They may not show that they're clearly sick, but maybe they're able to carry it and pass it on to somebody else in society.

We have to remember that, especially in the States too, where their measures are very different from ours, these athletes are not just living in their athlete bubble completely. They're only just seeing athletes. They're seeing their families, and their families are seeing other people as well. They have ways to interact with society. So I just hope that whatever measures are done, that has to be taken in mind.

Also for Steven Stamkos and for a lot of those-- we mentioned the topic of guys down south and the way that they handle things too. Consider the state he's in. The people have made the joke so many times that Florida didn't even know we were in a pandemic. So I wonder how much of him, of Steven Stamkos, saying, hey, if there's a way to finesse this, comes off the fact that he spends a good chunk of his time in a state that has not taken the pandemic all that seriously since day one.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: It's the only thing in his life that is affected. His profession is affected. But everything else, his day to day, his grocery store shop, his maybe taking kids to daycare, none of that is being affected by COVID-19. It's only what he does on the ice and when he's in Canada I suppose. That's a good point.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's what I think. So yeah, I don't know. I mean, I hope measures are completely enhanced. I admittedly did not get a chance to read the new COVID protocols that the league put in. But--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Same old stuff.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I guess. Yeah, just wear your masks, distance from people.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No dinners on the road. All that stuff. Yeah.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. OK. So just a little bit-- how much different is it from what they put out before? This is something that they probably should have put out from jump? This just kind of-- someone said that I think Gary Bettman and the league kind of made the point being like, hey, we've heard cases of players being on planes, not wearing your mask when they actually should be. This kind of feels like a talking to. Hey, we hear you're not respecting the rules. Respect the rules.

The players better respect the rules on that note. But yeah, it's just COVID-19.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I just think we're headed towards a mess of a season. Because just to recap here, I don't think the players are going to push for a pause because of the Olympics, whether they're going to play or want those three weeks off. They are going to try to keep that alive and try to push through because the moment they say, hey, let's pause, you just welcome in the NHL to say, OK, we're not doing that three weeks. We may not have a complete schedule during that three weeks. There could be a couple days off. But we're going to filter games in.

No one's going to the beach. No one's going to China. But the NHL doesn't want that pause on the flip side because then they are opening themselves up to maybe 70, 76 game schedules, the loss of revenue both in the short term and the season prospects here. And of course, they're in the business of making money and making up for what was lost even though a lot of that lands on the players.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting