It’s been six days since the NHL suspended play March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s been a welcome distraction from having our lives turned upside down to speculate about how and when we might see hockey again, the truth is we don’t have a clue about what comes next – big picture or small.
I’d like to think the season will resume, whether it’s July or August, and that we’ll have playoffs and a Stanley Cup champion, whether it’s 12 or 16 or 24 teams in contention, I don’t have the first clue how, or if, that will happen. I’m still processing having to go to my son’s school and clean out his locker. I’m still trying to get the hang of social distancing, proper handwashing and hitting the grocery store at a time when I have a chance to find what I’m looking for. It’s a work-in-progress.
What’s happening away from the rink, real life, is first and foremost on my mind, as I’ve already written. Still, it’s an escape from the headlines and the worries to think about when the season might resume and what that will look like. Likewise, mulling over what to write about the Edmonton Oilers with no actual games being played. A tip of the cap to those who are doing it with hours on radio or TV and daily column inches to fill.
I want nothing more than to get back to writing about the Oilers because that will signal we’ve at least returned to a reasonable facsimile of normalcy in the rest of our lives – school, work, going out for dinner, socializing. All the things I took for granted before these past few weeks. I keep thinking there must be a timeline for that, but no. Now, news a player with the Ottawa Senators has tested positive…
CLOSE TO HOME
An Ottawa Senators player has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The player has had mild symptoms and is in isolation.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 18, 2020
Nothing strikes closer to home during times like this than the safety and health of your own family and friends, but with more aspects of our lives being shut down by the day, this news about the Senators just adds to the uncertainty and, for me, angst about what comes next. It’s kind of blown some retrospective pieces I was thinking about writing to fill the void right out of the water.
“As a result of this positive case, all members of the Ottawa Senators are requested to remain isolated, to monitor their health and seek advice from our team medical staff,” the team said in a statement Tuesday. “The health of our players, fans, and community remains our highest priority. We will continue to do everything we can to help ensure our players, staff, fans and the greater community remain safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty due to the spread of the coronavirus.”
Given the spread of the outbreak we’ve seen over the last past week, it was a matter of time, really, even with arenas shuttered and the league shut down, that COVID-19 showed up within the NHL. Chances are more players will get it. Even with the rinks padlocked, players are out there with the rest of us. They can’t and don’t live in a bubble.
One of many questions I’ve got in the wake of the news out of Ottawa – if a definitive answer is out there, I missed it – is about how the virus works long term. If you get the virus, does it stay with you? While the symptoms might disappear in time and you get “better,” does it stay with you in some dormant form then flare up again, putting others at risk? With a tested vaccine maybe 18 months off, how does the NHL start up again until that question is answered? How can there be any timeline as to when we get our lives and our game back?
Even after this pandemic grabbed headlines and went from being the lead item on the evening news to the entire newscast, I was certain we’d get past this, whether it took weeks or even months. We always have, right? I still believe that, but I’m not certain of it based on what little I know. Thankfully, there are a lot of people infinitely smarter than me trying to figure that out.
I want hockey back. More important, I want some semblance of normalcy in our daily lives back, even if it looks much different than it has until now, no matter what the timeline. Like you, I wait. And I hope.