What’s the Delay In Return To Play?

By Joe Russo

On June 4th the NBA revealed its full return to play format which included a July 31 season resumption date. A 29-1 owner tally along with an NBAPA player rep unanimous vote symbolized a long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. Aside from an additional unforeseen tragedy, the NBA will play in the summer of 2020.

News, where positive, surrounding the NHL’s rather elongated process for pinpointing their definitive return date is far more jaded. Seven days after the NBA announced their return to play format and date, their winter counterpart released their statement disclosing that beginning July 10, again barring unforeseen setbacks, teams will begin their training camps.

“The length of training camp and, therefore, the start date for formal resumption of play (Phase 4) will be determined at a future date” per the league’s statement.

One area where the NBA has the NHL beat is location.

The remainder of the NBA season will be hosted in Orlando with players staying at the Walt Disney World resort. A centralized location allows for a streamlined logistical process where all players, management, TV crews, equipment personnel, etc. remain under one roof.

A luxury not felt by the NHL, who have been searching for its final hub city after news leaked that Las Vegas has been named one of the finalists. Long rumored that a delay in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s much-contested decision of whether or not to soften Canada’s stance on its tighter than U.S. quarantine policy to comply with the NHL is the final crux. Due to this, a remarkably patient NHL has carefully toed the line.

Canada’s influence on the playoffs is undeniable, much the like of the NFL in America or soccer in Europe. However, waiting in the weeds for a political decision one way or the other is difficult to wrap your head around.

Of the original 10 proposed hub cities, three reside in Canada Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver with Pittsburgh, Columbus, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas rounding out the pack.

Addressing the purple elephant in the room, yes, a lot of the US-based cities could provide the exact luxuries found just north of its border. Speaking of oddly colored elephants, of the 24 teams participating for the Stanley Cup a mere 6 are based in Canada. With Toronto leaping off the list of remaining hub cities it is difficult to believe a finalized plan wouldn’t have been in hand if the powers that be not focused on awarding one hub city to Canada. Despite political uncertainty and heightened restrictions, it appears the often modest NHL isn’t as separate from its peers.

Mr. Gekko in this particular situation I must disagree with your point on greed being good.

Unfortunately, if the owners handle this like they handle negotiating their CBAs I can’t imagine the players will have a ton of influence on the final decision.

Time is of the essence, bear in mind the training camp length hasn’t even been released, and each passing day feels like a missed opportunity. Acknowledging that everyone wants to see impactful hockey played this summer, so why has this process been so played out? Player and human safety are paramount, of course, but does that suggest the NBA’s plan is detrimental just because they came to their conclusion first?

This begs the question, is this truly about player safety or financial gain?

Joe Russo

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