This past Sunday marked one month since we last watched a live NHL game. I’m not sure any of us knew how much our lives and our sporting passions would be altered. On March 12th, the NHL announced it was suspending play. It was the first step in a major change in society. Now social distancing, working from home (if possible) or not working at all if your job was deemed “non-essential” is our reality.
It is understandable why this is happening, as the Coronavirus spreads quickly, but it is also very frustrating, scary and nerve wracking for many. It is unprecedented and I believe many humans are wired to function better with direction and guidelines. Unfortunately right now, there is no end date. Imagine how much easier it would be if we knew we could start resuming normal activities on July 1st, or August 1st. It would be easier to mentally prepare if there was a timeline, but there isn’t, and that is why we need to support each other now more than ever.
What seemed plausible on March 15th isn’t today. Not in our regular lives or in the sporting world. A week into the league-wide shutdown, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the league were hoping to be back playing soon. That has changed.
Now the focus has changed to the summer. Last week NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in an interview with Mike Tirico on NBC Sports Network, updated fans on the NHL’s plans.
“I do believe we can play well into the summer,” said Bettman. “The days of when games had to be postponed because there was no air conditioning in a building are long behind us. We can handle making ice now in any condition. Ice won’t be a factor.
Summer hockey in Dallas, Tampa Bay and even Edmonton when it is 25+ degrees Celsius will be a challenge. And right now it seems impossible the NHL will be played with fans during the summer. While it is painful to admit, it looks less likely the NHL can resume the 2019/2020 season unless they want to delay the start of next season.
“Everything we do needs to be fair,” Bettman continued. “The best thing and the easiest thing would be if at some point if we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we are considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is.”
It was the first time I’ve heard Bettman or Daly suggest resuming this season might not be possible. That is the reality, and with every passing day the NHL is looking at different options. They have discussed smaller venues in neutral cities with no fans and players basically playing games and then going back to their hotels. They will exhaust every possible option, but based on what the scientific experts have said, I think it is safe to assume fans will not be in attendance for any games this summer. And the likelihood of games being played at all is slim.
It is disappointing. I understand why the games aren’t being played, and I agree with the measures put in place in society, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing for sports fans. It is okay for fans to mourn the lack of games. It is okay to miss them. It doesn’t mean you are selfish or out of touch. It simply means you miss watching sports. Just like you miss playing men’s league or golf or soccer or squash or going to the gym.
We all miss that and it is okay. It is normal. It will be our new normal for a while, and when we get back to our own activities and watching games we likely will appreciate it more. But if you woke up today thinking about what the playoffs might have been, you are likely in the majority of NHL fans. We all miss the games, the hype leading up to the games, the elation, intensity, frustration and the camaraderie that comes with playoff hockey. It is something hockey fans and players of the CJHL, AJHL, WHL, OHL, QMJHL, NCAA, AHL and NHL became accustomed to every March-June, and to have it suddenly ripped away is brutal.
I look forward to sports returning. I want to watch my son play Novice as much as I want to watch the NHL. This stoppage has impacted every level of hockey, and other sports, and I want our regular hockey routines to return as much as I want our regular daily habits to come back to normal.
Not having an end date for that to occur makes it more challenging, at least for me. We knew when the playoffs started and when they’d finish. We knew when the Memorial Cup would start. We knew when the NHL draft was. We knew when free agency began. Now we know only disappointment. It is odd and a bit uncomfortable. The CJHL, AJHL, NCAA, WHL, OHL and QMJHL and Memorial Cup are cancelled. The NHL is suspended and the playoffs are on life support.
It has been a difficult month in many aspects, but the human spirit is very powerful. We will survive and thrive again. But waiting for that to happen is challenging.
HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH IT?
First off, I hope you are doing okay. It is a stressful time worrying about your health and the health of your loved ones. Then you add in work, school and the inability to see your friends and family and losing one of your favourite pastimes, playing and watching sports, and it is a lot to handle. If you are struggling, ask for help. Your family and friends will help you, maybe even more than you think. Or just comment here and your fellow Nation readers will encourage you.
What are you doing to pass the time? I’ve found a few positives from being asked to stay home.
1. I’m growing a beard for the first time. It is full in the front, but the sides need some work. It has been three weeks. I decided to keep it until the end of April and re-assess.
2. I have more time to read. I’ve read books about people overcoming tough situations and it inspired me and gave me confidence I can get through this no problem. Here are two I’d recommend:
- From The Ashes by Jesse Thistle. A raw and honest memoir about a Metis man who battled drug addiction, being homeless going to jail and trying to recover.
- Homes by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung. Abu Bakr lived in Syria when the Civil war broke out. He was only 10 years old and he wrote the book while he was still a teenager. Turns out Al Rabeeah and Yeung are from Edmonton which added to the story.
- The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. An incredible story of seven prisoners who escaped a Soviet camp in Siberia, then marched out of Siberia through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India. Unreal.
- My Mother, A serial Killer by Hazel Baron. This was more about my fascination with serial killers. That might sound odd, but how someone can be that ruthless and without a conscience intrigues me.
3. We started #1260MovieWatch every Tuesday and Friday night at 8 p.m. MST. We put four options out on Twitter and whichever movie gets the most votes, we watch. You can comment on it like you would a hockey game and use the hashtag. The film District 9 created a lot of debate. I thought the first hour of that movie was the worst I’d seen in a long time.
4. Doing home exercises with my son. He is six and we are working on coordination drills like bouncing balls off the wall and catching them. We also bought an agility training ladder and he loves it. Plus it is good for me. We get to move a lot in a small space and come up with different patterns.
5. I’m trying to cook more. Hasn’t gone very well yet, but a good buddy of mine who is a chef, Jeff Jackson, sent me some recipes. I made Bucatani/Ricotta and cheese dish. Pretty straight forward, but very tasty.
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti
1 c. ricotta
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan
Zest and juice from 1 lemon Kosher
salt Freshly ground black pepper.
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly sliced basil, for serving
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve one cup pasta water, then drain. Return pasta to pot.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, oil, pecorino, lemon juice, and zest. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water to pasta and toss. Add more reserved pasta water if sauce is too thick.
- Serve with basil, more pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil.
6. On my radio show, we are doing more long, in-depth interviews in segment called Story Time. It has been really fun, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve had some great story tellers. You can clink the links to listen to a few.
- Fred Fox, older brother of Terry Fox, spoke about the 40th anniversary (yesterday) of Terry’s Marathon of Hope. Fred took us back to 1980 and how the idea came about, how Terry handled the pain of running, the challenges early on and how it grew to being so much more than anyone could have expected.
- Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher talked about his journey to being an NHL GM. And he shared some advice for those who want to get into hockey management, who haven’t played hockey at a high level. He also very honestly talked about the one trade he made that made no sense. Great stuff.
- Former NHLer Cam Janssen spoke about his career path. He was highly entertaining and intense.
- Former Edmonton Eskimos Donny Brady, Randy Chevrier, Mookie Mitchell and Jed Roberts had very different paths to playing pro football. Roberts didn’t speak until he was five years old due to a hearing impairment. Chevrier never played football until he was 18 and then a stabbing when he was 22 almost cost him his life. Brady played the first year Cleveland returned to the NFL and for Bill Belichick. Mitchell blew his chance at a Division 1 NCAA scholarship by making a simple mistake.
- Four time World Series champion Jack Morris talked about his incredible career. How he learned to throw a splitter, being the MVP in the 1991 playoffs and winning two championships with the Blue Jays. Great stuff.
What are you new things that you are doing to adjust to our new normal that have become positives?
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