The way the virus is spreading and the restrictions that may have to be implemented to resume play, it might be best for the NHL to just cancel the season.
While the Carolina Hurricanes are stuck in limbo due to the pause of the season, a potential play model has emerged that would focus on preventing the spread of Covid-19. Here’s why the 2019-2020 should be canceled to preserve the game as it should be played.
I am not your typical NHL hockey fan. I am from the South where football is king and the biggest sporting event of the year is Super Bowl. My own background finds me reading more poetry than watching Sport’s Center, but I have a dirty secret. I love hockey, and I love fighting in hockey
I hope I am not misunderstood. I fell captive to the grip of hockey when I saw the skill and precision the game demanded, and the talent that the Hurricanes displayed when they made these skillful plays look easy. However, the fights serve the purpose of serving the fans with raw emotion as a contrast to the skill and strategy that the teams deploy.
The Carolina Hurricanes were holding on to a wild card playoff spot when the regular season was put on hold indefinitely due to Covid19. While a season left unfinished is not without precedent, the last season to be put on hold due to health concerns was the 1919 season when the Spanish Flu claimed Joe Hall of the Montreal Canadians.
While I am as eager as any fan to see the season resume and rightfully reward the Hurricanes with the playoff spot that they have fought tooth and nail for, I began to consider the opinion that the NHL should cancel the remainder of the season when I read the opinion that Ryan Rishaug gathered from an infectious disease specialist about a model of gameplay:
Every fan can agree that the health of the players is the most important aspect of the game that ensures their favorite team’s success and prosperity. While these rules would increase the chance that the teams would remain healthy, there is no substitution for the game as we know it. I believe the fight ban would prevent the game we love from being played in the postseason.
Fighting doesn’t hold the place in the sport that it once did. A 2016 survey reveals that a fighting ban would have no impact on the viewing habits of 51% of fans. This is no surprise given the NHL has enforced a stricter penalty for fighting and many players have moved away from the practice.
The Great One Wayne Gretzky defends fighting in his book 99: Stories of the Game. He says that fighters “actually prevent violence. If there is a beef, it’s better to settle it right there. It’s when things go unaddressed (or a score is lopsided) that a game gets out of hand”.
It’s hard to disagree with the Great One, because while he earned the nickname based on his skill and hockey ability he was also a great player because he understood the game and the different roles that players filled. I think that fighting today still serves as a release valve for built-up tension during the game and actually produces a fair contest.
Two scenarios emerge for the postseason. Either the game is played as it has been played up until this point, or the game changes to form some semblance of a complete season with a fighting ban and increased protective equipment.
If the season resumes as normal, then when gloves are dropped and fists fly, blood will be spilled. I can’t imagine that there is any scenario where a player would be more likely to contract Covid-19. This would not only put a swift end to the playoffs but also put the 2020-2021 season in jeopardy.
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Perhaps I am holding onto something that will eventually be extinct within the NHL. Certainly fighting will not last forever, and it wouldn’t make me lose my love for the sport. However, I do think that fighting belongs in the playoffs. Sweat and tears aren’t always the same without blood, and many players have sacrificed blood and teeth to hoist the Stanley Cup high.
The only sensible conclusion I can draw is that we put an end to the NHL’s 2019-2020 season and focus on the upcoming season where the Hurricanes can rest their injuries and come back better than ever. One player contracting Covid-19 because fans wanted to see the season finished would put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and change the game for the worse.
The Hurricanes have already felt the threat of Covid-19 when beloved Hurricane’s announcer John Forslund was thrust into self-quarantine after the revelation that he stayed in the same hotel room that Covid-19 patient zero of the sports world, Rudy Gobert, stayed in less than two days prior. This is just one example of the risk each player would be in if the season resumed soon.
One day the game will change, and we will come to love hockey sans fighting. However, today doesn’t have to be that day. The NHL shouldn’t sacrifice the game to finish the season. With a heavy heart, I can only conclude that we should work diligently towards a safe season with the game that we know and love intact.
Question for Cardiac Cane Readers: Would you be in favor of the completion of the season with the above rules in place?