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Random Thoughts: NHL Stalemate, Evan Bouchard’s Moustache, and Teemu Hartikainen

Can you believe we’ve already landed in December and we’re still no closer to the NHL getting back on the ice for the 2020-21 season? The league and players are still arguing about money and that means we’re all left to sit here and wait for some kind of resolution, affording silly hockey bloggers like me all kinds of time to sit and wonder about what’s to come.

WE’VE REACHED A STALEMATE

As a hockey fan, we’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to watching the NHL and its players get into labour disputes a little too often, which makes this current edition feel oddly familiar despite the unfamiliar circumstances. With a freshly signed CBA extension on the books, it’s understandable why the players would be upset about the salary renegotiation that’s going on right now, but I also can see the angle where some owners would look at the coming losses they’re about to take and believe that there’s not much point in having a fanless season. So how do they end this? I have no idea. I’m not smart enough to figure that out, but what I do know is that missing another full year would be a really tough look for hockey. Over at Sportsnet, Brian Burke spoke about the effects that another missed season would cause for the NHL, and as expected, he didn’t exactly sugarcoat his feelings:

A GM sat across from me and told me two weeks ago, “if we play a 60-game schedule we lose $60 million, if we don’t play we lose $15 (million). Therefore, it’s better for us if we don’t play.” I said, no it’s not — think longterm. What’s a franchise worth right now? I don’t think very much right now if they’re not playing. Operationally, how do you allocate the losses? Because you’re going to lose money playing with no fans or socially distanced fans — it’s going to be fine when we get a vaccine — but in my mind, to not play would be catastrophic. So the players will have to figure out what’s the biggest haircut they can live with, but in my mind, if we don’t play, then you’re talking about a catastrophic, devastating effect on the league in the US, which will be reflected in the new TV deal.

While I’m nowhere close to being qualified when it comes to finding smart financial solutions to bridge the gap between the league and players, I’m buying what Brian Burke is selling when he talks about the problems the NHL may face in negotiating a new TV deal if they can’t get back on the ice for the 2021 season. With every other major sports league finding a way to play — we’ll see what happens with the NBA if COVID numbers continue to shoot the moon — the NHL might end up even further off the minds of sports fans down south than they already are now. For a league that loves to talk about growing the game, they equally love finding new and creative ways to avoid playing hockey.

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OUTDOOR GAMES

On Thursday, Robin Brownlee recapped the chatter Elliotte Friedman caused when he reported that four NHL teams exploring the idea of holding outdoor games. In the article, Brownlee talked about how the idea of trying to organize outdoor games may be all well and good, but without a season in place to plan for, these pipedream schemes aren’t any closer to happening than if I suggested a game on the space station.

In case you need a refresher:

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, four NHL teams are exploring the possibility of playing home games outdoors if the season gets started and teams are allowed to have fans attend games at some point. According to the story, Anaheim, Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh are the four teams.

As Friedman says, it’s a longshot for a lot of reasons – not the least being cost and the planning it would take to fit outdoor games into a schedule that’s already in flux with game dates and divisional alignments yet to be determined. It’s a pie-in-the-sky possibility. Let’s just get a 48-game schedule locked down, if possible, and forget about adding a wildcard like an outdoor game into the deck.

As much as I appreciate the creativity that the Ducks, Bruins, Kings, and Penguins are showing by investigating the feasibility of holding outdoor games, the climate in two of those cities legitimately makes me laugh when I think about how much ice care this would take, I wanted to repost Brownlee’s comments because I think they bear repeating. As much as it’s fun to think about embracing the strangeness that is COVID-19, I’m having a hard time buying into that strangeness with a deal in place for a new season first.

BOUCHARD’S MOUSTACHE

On Wednesday, I was cruising around on Twitter when I came across a Swedish highlight from Here’s Your Replay — an amazing Twitter account if you’re not already following — featuring a missed shootout attempt from Evan Bouchard. Now, initially, I retweeted because I thought it was topical and interesting for Oilers fans to be able to keep up with what’s going on with Bouchard, and even though he missed on the play, I was still going to give him some love anyway. That’s when I noticed his moustache.

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As many men do in November, Evan Bouchard was growing his mo in support of Movember and I have to admit that the lip critter that dad spawned on his face was a revelation. Thick and luxurious, bold and brave, this sheer display of manliness was a quick dose of random nonsense that I love to see when I least expect it. For his work in making the Nation smile on a hockeyless Wednesday afternoon on Twitter, I wanted to take a moment to tip my cap to Evan Bouchard for that miraculous duster. I know Movember is over, but I swear to Gord that this is a look the guy should consider rocking full time.

TEEMU HARTIKAINEN

Sometimes, when I’m cruising around the Internet to look for stories or ideas to include in this weekly post, I find something that grabs my attention and I just can’t shake it. That’s how I felt when I saw that former Oiler (kinda), Teemu Hartikainen, is currently second overall in the KHL in points. Through the first couple months of the season, Hartikainen has registered 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 26 games with Salavat Yulaev, and it made me think back to the days where he was supposed to be part of the solution around here. It reminded me of all of the forgotten soldiers that we lost over the years and how it’s interesting to see them pop up from time to time. We’ve had a lot of ‘Answers’ around here, haven’t we? Yesterday, on Oilersnation Radio, we talked about some of our favourite players that were supposed to be stars for this franchise and it was both a sad and hilarious walk down memory lane. From Rob Schremp to Ty Rattie to Anton Belov and everyone in between, it’s been a wild trip to be an Oilers fan and I’d love to know which players you bought into that just never quite made it happen.