The return of sports in on the horizon but with a second wave of Covid-19 looming there are still concerns with some athletes on the resumption. I’ll go over a few leagues in North America to see where we stand on getting to watch our favourite teams return to action.
In the NHL:
The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed to a new CBA which will see the qualifying round of the 2020 playoffs start on August 1st. The new agreement is currently being voted on by all the players and we will know more in the coming days. If everything goes according to plan and the NHL resumes on August 1st, Toronto and Edmonton will be the two hub cities where playoff games will be played.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
The plan is to play three games a day both in Edmonton and Toronto, the first game starting at noon followed by one at 4Pm and 8Pm. Now, keep in mind the two-hour time difference between Edmonton and Toronto, basically there’s going to be six games a day spread out over a 15-hour window, if not longer. If there are multiple overtime games the schedule will be pushed back until the game is over and the proper cleaning of the benches and locker rooms are finished. He also mentioned that in the preliminary round, when you’ve got four placement teams in the East and the West – the top four teams in each conference – playing seeding games, there isn’t unlimited overtime. So, what they will do there, they’ll just use regular season overtime and shootout. They would put those games in the 4:00 spot to try and make up time if the first game of the day goes really long, or to give yourself a finite finish time so that it can get to the evening game. But that’s basically the way it’s going to work. And it could be like U.S. Open tennis once we get into the playoffs. It’s not unheard of to start primetime matches at midnight.
Does the league have a say in who can return?
We know NHL players can opt out of the league’s Return to Play if they choose without consequence. But can the league also weigh in on who can and cannot play in accordance with players health issues.
The National Hockey League has the ability to deem players unfit to play if they think they’re higher risk and that they could get extremely ill if they were to contract the coronavirus. Now, team doctors and infectious disease experts the National Hockey League has hired would have to make a call on those players. But let’s use Max Domi of the Montreal Canadiens and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers as an example. Both of those players are Type 1 diabetics. Both of those players have celiac disease. Now, I’m not suggesting that an NHL team doctor or an infectious disease expert doctor is going to say these guys are unfit to play. But they do have to go through that process. Max Domi and Kaapo Kakko, want to play in the Return to Play and they intend to play. But there is that extra step because of their underlying conditions where doctors will have to sign off that they are fit to play, or they’re unfit to play and all of that process will take place at the beginning of next week when training camp starts and players go through their pre-Phase 3 medicals.
Finally, with the new CBA we could see NHL players return to the Olympics to play for their country in 2022 and 2026, but that remains to be decided on.
In the NBA:
In the case of the NBA things get a little more complicated. We have already seen players decide not to play the remainder of the season at Disney World in Orlando for medical reasons but there are also reasons for the social injustice debate in the USA, mainly concerning Police Brutality.
As of now the NBA is set to resume play at the end of this month with games scheduled for July 30th. The players have been vocal about how to use their influence to speak up against police brutality, notably Black Lives Matter will be on the sidelines of each court during the return to play. Players name plates will also be replaced by a list of words such as Say their Names and Power to the people.
With everything said, we will see the first NBA game since March 12th played on July 30th as the Utah Jazz will tip off against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Baseball will be back as well this summer after multiple failed agreements between the MLB and MLBPA. The league decided to move forward with a 60-game season, one of the shortest in the history of the MLB, and will start on July 23rd with the Yankees and Nationals. Although the season is set to start in a few weeks, some players have concerns over how the league is handling testing for Covid-19 with multiple confirmed cases over the last few weeks. The Blue Jays are set to start their season on July 24th in Tampa Bay to play a four-game series against the Rays.