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Monday Mailbag – Are fanless NHL games a good idea?

Welcome, Nation, to a brand new edition of the Monday Mailbag! It’s already been more than a month since the NHL has suspended its season as a result of COVID-19, but you’ve still got hockey questions that need answers. Obviously, it’s a strange time right now but we still wanted to put together your questions and try to come up with whatever wisdom we can muster. As always, this feature depends on you so please send me your questions by email or Twitter for next week and I’ll try to sneak you in. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week and please enjoy the free learning opportunity.

1) Paul asks – Pretend for a moment that the NHL is safely able to move ahead with the idea of playing games without fans. What do you think of the idea and would the lack of fan atmosphere ruin things for you?

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Robin Brownlee:

I don’t particularly like the thought of playing in empty buildings because the fans lose the enjoyment of taking in the atmosphere. It matters less to me only because my days in the rink were spent working, so it was very secondary.

Jason Gregor:

It is better than the alternative of no games. At least fans could watch on TV, but without question the atmosphere would not be close to the same. What would occur is the players and the league would realize how important fans are, and it might lead to less gouging (prices of food/beverage) when fans can return.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ve voiced my opinion on that multiple times and I do think it would hurt the overall enjoyment of the game. I think the players would play with a little less emotion and watching a big goal get scored in the postseason just wouldn’t be the same without an insane crowd in the building.

The Nation Dan:

I think back to when the CBC went on strike. I can’t remember if it affected hockey, but I do remember watching Eskimos games without announcers and it was different, but I also kind of liked the change of pace. I think the lack of crowd noise will get tired sooner, but I also imagine they will try and come up with new ways to engage people. If anything, the Nation will need to come up with some way to get Oilers fans in one “room.”

Zach Laing:

I think it’s going to change things for sure. The atmosphere would be different, no doubt, and that could have an impact on the game being played. At the end of the day, these guys are all pros and I’m sure they would all lace them up tomorrow if they could.

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Baggedmilk:

It would definitely be weird, eerie, and all-around strange to see NHL games without a crowd, but at this point, I don’t even care about the oddness. I’d love to watch the boys play.

2) Stephen asks – If the NHL does indeed start the 2020-21 season in November, do you think they would have to cut or trim the bye weeks, all-star week, etc to try and save some time or would they just finish up in July and move on?

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, they’ve already talked about skipping the all-star break and doing away with bye-weeks. They want to finish up in June.

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Jason Gregor:

The league already talked about no all-star break and no bye-weeks. Very likely that would happen. I wonder if league would look at playing teams back-to-back nights in the same city, like baseball, to save travel and wear and tear on bodies. It would help.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

No, they would trim out things like the All-Star game and the bye weeks. I think both the league and PA would rather lose those two events than increase the number of back-to-backs in the schedule or shorten another offseason.

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The Nation Dan:

The PA is going to be giving up a lot in this exchange (of course the owners are doing that now) but I don’t know if they want to risk injury and their longevity for this. So, in my mind, I think they kind of spread the seasons out for a couple of years.

Zach Laing:

The league has already said they want to cut bye weeks and the all-star week.

Baggedmilk:

They’re going to have to make cuts somewhere if they don’t want the next season to run late in the summer.

3) Tara asks – This past Saturday marked the five year anniversary of the Connor McDavid lottery and I’d like to know everyone’s thoughts on how he’s progressed through the first portion of his career?

Robin Brownlee:

Better than anybody could’ve hoped. He’s the best player in the game and is only now entering his prime years.

Jason Gregor:

He has a massive amount of hype and pressure on him and he’s lived up to it, and arguably surpassed it. You wonder what is numbers would be if he didn’t have two serious injuries. I know he didn’t miss any games with this second injury, but he didn’t have a proper summer of training and I think he would have been better this year had he been able to train like he is accustomed to.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Wonderfully. Better than I expected. I think we all knew he was going to dominate but did anyone expect him to become the most electrifying offensive star in the league as quickly as he did? I certainly didn’t and watching him tear apart the league has been an absolute treat.

The Nation Dan:

Bad luck. Lots of bad luck. He has had the injury thanks to teammate Brandon Manning. Ryan Kesler held Cam Talbot’s pad and remove him from the playoffs. He has had the super flu that slowed his season down. He has had Peter Chiarelli as his GM. Now, he has just a global pandemic to come along and rob him of playoffs.

Zach Laing:

He’s been tremendous when he’s been healthy. Injuries have made things hard on him, but he’s a superhuman. Among players with >350 game played, Connor McDavid ranks 5th all-time in points-per-game. Could anybody have asked for more?

Baggedmilk:

From the moment he stepped on the ice for that first practice, Connor McDavid has been a beacon of light for a franchise that was wandering the dark for ages. Not only is he better than I could have ever expected, I strongly believe that he’s working with a Game Genie that no one else has access to — it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Local Input~ Edmonton Oilers’ Todd Marchant (26) scores the fourth and winning goal for his team as Dallas Stars’ goalkeeper Andy Moog tries to block the puck, April 29. Edmonton defeated Dallas 4-3 and advances to the second round of the playoffs. SPORT NHL

4) Len asks – Not having the playoffs on TV right now has created a massive void in my life and along those lines, I want to know which single playoff game had the biggest impact on everyone?

Robin Brownlee:

I’ll say it was Game 6 of the 2006 playoffs because that series win over Detroit began the Oilers roll all the way into the SC final. It impacted me more than any other game because I was getting married July 1 and I figured I’d have plenty of time to help with planning etc that summer. By the time I flew out of Raleigh on June 19 after Game 7, everything was done and I basically just had to show up.

Jason Gregor:

Game seven of the first round in 1990. The Oilers completed the comeback from down 3-1 in the series against Winnipeg and won the series 4-3. I was in grade 12 and had three Oilers in my hockey pool. They won and that allowed me to go on and win the pool. Mark Lamb was unreal that year.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I remember going to Game 6 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final with my Dad. That’s really one of the first Oilers games I have strong memories of since I was only eight-years-old. Recently, I’ll say that Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks in 2017. I rushed home from a shift at work to watch the game with my family and we just had a blast watching Leon and the Oilers torch the Ducks that evening. Great memories.

The Nation Dan:

Recency bias be damned. I can’t help but think of a non-Oilers playoff game right now. The biggest impact had to be the Vegas Golden Knight vs San Jose Sharks game last year. It was 3-0 and then the Pavelski incident happened.

The refs got talked into a 5 minute major and the Sharks comeback was on. It really impacted me because it just showed how much help the NHL refs need to try and get calls right. The NBA has had a look in the mirror and created a system that helps the refs with reviews, and I hope the NHL follows suit.

Zach Laing:

Probably Game 7 against Carolina. That game was heartbreaking, but following that Oilers team really made me fall in love with the franchise.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to say Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks from 2017. Not only did the Oilers lay the boots on them, but I was also able to bring my dad to his first ever playoff game, and that’s a moment I’ll cherish forever.

5) Jeff asks – Since we’re all being asked to stay home as much as possible, I’m curious to know what everyone is doing to try and get some exercise and stay active?

Robin Brownlee:

Lots of walks in the neighborhood.

Jason Gregor:

We have a home gym so that makes it easy. Also now that it is nice out we went on a two-hour bike ride. Our son loves biking. And it is calving season at my farm, so I’m out there often and there is a lot of walking and moving involved. I’m lucky we have the farm.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ll be honest, I haven’t done much. But I have a week off work now so I have some extra free time and I will be busting out my old street hockey net and firing some pucks. That’s the best sort of physical activity there is!

The Nation Dan:

I have been slacking quite a bit with the pandemic. Kind of trying to figure out a good flow for me with all kinds of different challenges. I went out for my first run since shortly after the shut down happen and did 5K. It was rough.. but I need to keep doing that. Mask on of course.

Zach Laing:

I’ve been picking up lots of Nation Beer and putting it back down. Does that count?

Baggedmilk:

Me and my little homie, Frank, are taking some long walks around the neighbourhood. The nice thing about having a dog is that it forces me to get out because he needs to be taken care of, so I’ve actually been putting a lot of steps behind me since this whole thing has gone down.

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