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Three Thoughts on the NHL’s Return to Play Plan, and the Jets

Gary Bettman outlined the NHL’s proposed return to play plan. There’s lots to ponder about the proposal, here are three things.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Announces Return To Play Plan For Resumption Of Season Photo by NHL Images/NHLI via Getty Images

Kudos to the NHL

Wherever you stand on the risks associated with re-starting professional sports at this time, I’m surprised and impressed the NHL has essentially taken a leadership role amongst the major pro sports in terms of outlining the details of a proposed return. I honestly thought the NBA would lead the charge, with Gary Bettman and the NHL following behind like Chester the little dog following Spike in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Sure there are still many questions, hurdles, obstacles to overcome. But, well done NHL for coming up at least with a tangible plan to start the process.

The Stanley Cup is Wide Open

Media types covering the NHL are understandably spilling much ink on the potential Stanley Cup odds for each team. I enjoy that type of analysis, and respect the rationale for setting odds. But, I think for both the NHL and NBA resuming play after this long, the odds are pretty fluid. If you’re inclined to gamble, I’d say this is the year to lay down some money on a long shot.

These are unprecedented times. Basically teams have been on an unplanned summer break, without their normal access to off season workouts, supports and training. There are going to be some athletes who have become deconditioned through inactivity, improper training or just spending too much time gaming and sitting in their lambourghini (*cough* Laine). On the flip side, we will also see some players come back with an added jump in their step having partially or fully recovered from lingering injuries.

I think we are going to see teams profiling like they would for the first month or two of a regular season coming off a summer break, versus carrying momentum they had from the season. This means that teams may unexpectedly come out of the gate hot or cold until some of these factors stabilize. Throw in variations coaching, preparing for a specific first opponent for a month, varying levels of player motivation to even come back ... and it all adds up to wonderful chaos for fans, and a Stanley Cup that is truly is wide open.

As a Jets fan, you have to like your chances given this uncertainty. Excellent goaltending, a team where the core has been to a Western Conference final, a full compliment on defense ... I like our chances as much as most teams. Uncertainty has leveled the playing field.

Hub City Selection

I’m almost as excited about the hub city selections as I am the actual games. It’s come down to Las Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. If I were the NHL and TSN I’d devote a two hour show to selecting the two cities. Like a draft lottery show. Footage of the sights and sounds of each city; famous residents promoting their city (Wayne Newton in Vegas for the win!); vintage NHL footage from that team’s city, if applicable. I’d watch! Although, I almost tuned in to watch Tom Brady playing golf recently, so I’m probably not the best judge of quality TV at this point.

If the hub model goes ahead players and coaches will basically be sequestered to a hotel and a hockey rink. As fans it really doesn’t matter much where the games originate. For players there may be an impact depending on the city they are in. Las Vegas for example. Sure players are supposed to be staying put, but, there are a lot more temptations in Vegas than say Columbus. Over the years there are enough stories about pro athletes slipping out to a casino for a quick game of blackjack to at least be a bit concerned.

The hub city concept, while not ideal, is at least innovative and has a bit of the energy of the NCAA’s March Madness, minus the rabid fans in attendance.

Again, I can appreciate anyone’s perspective on the relative importance of pro sports, versus the perceived risks of returning to play. As a lifelong pro sports fan though, I also appreciate that teams, pro athletes and those employed by teams have the right to at least propose a plan to return.

Thoughts? Comments? Debates? Fire away!