First off, I wanted to say thank you.
According to my notes, this is blog #400.
My first article was under the pseudonym, Justin Lowe title, "Hi, my name is…" on November 2nd, 2017.
Thank you for those who have been reading, lurking, contributing, sharing, and supporting.
It's obviously been increasingly more difficult to produce content during a pandemic, but thanks to all of you, I continue to be inspired to write and create a conversation to keep us all distracted when we need it the most.
Now, moving on to my thoughts on the remainder of the season and this 24-team format.
I have been relatively quiet on this front since the season was shut down as I awaited some sort of news or direction but this persistent virus has kept us all in limbo.
Well, there has appeared to be some progress by the NHL and NHLPA who have agreed on a 24-team format when the season resumes.
Well, they sure do seem confident that the season will resume. Gary Bettman has been leading the charge in this confidence, speaking as if the NHL not resuming play for the 2019-20 season was never an option.
This news is followed by more optimism within the sporting world with New York announcing that pro teams can start to train again:
I have been silent for the most part on this, as I remain very cautious.
My thoughts are this; people first, sports second.
The people I speak are the athletes, coaching/management, broadcasters, arena staff, and all those who would be involved in bringing the NHL back.
Their safety is first in my eyes.
Depending on where you live you may agree or you may think I'm crazy. The state of COVID-19 varies from country, state, province, and community.
Some days there's optimism where I live, the next day, there's a spike in cases and deaths.
I have a lot of "what if" scenarios that make me wary of returning to play too soon:
* A large group of players contract COVID-19 and are unable to play – and then go into a 14-day quarantine. Can you imagine if 7-10 players on the Hawks are out and they have to toss in 7-10 Rockford IceHogs? Yikes.
* An entire coaching staff contracts the virus and cannot be with the team. Ok, maybe not the end of the world, but who coaches?
* Will the game lack intensity as players are cautious to engage in scrums, fighting, etc.?
* What if a star player doesn't feel safe? Max Domi for example is a type 1 diabetic and due to that he is immunocompromised. And that's just one example.
The biggest concern I've heard from the player's side – outside of overall health and safety – is that whatever the format is when/if they return, they do not want the integrity of the sport to be compromised.
With all of those examples above the integrity of the game could definitely be impacted.
There is, of course, the other side of this scenario where everything is fine and hockey is on our television sets, which would be amazing.
I won't lie, I miss sports more than most, but my overall feeling is "proceed with caution."
That's what I have to say about that. Now, what do I think about the 24-team format where the Hawks would play the Edmonton Oilers for a chance to be included in the 2019-20 postseason?
To that, I say sure.
Full transparency, I would prefer to have the Hawks draft as high as possible this summer (or whenever it takes place).
However, damn, it would be exciting to see Patty Kane and the crew out there taking on McJesus and Draisaitl.
It would be beneficial for guys like Dach and Boqvist – and Strome and DeBrincat for that matter to play some "meaningful" games.
Could they beat the Oilers in a 5 or 7-game series? They sure could. But who knows what players and teams will look like after such a long layoff. It will be a total crapshoot and I think teams that have a higher amount of younger players on the team could benefit.
I will end this by saying, if the NHL returns, I really hope it's the right decision at the right time. The setup of these host cities better be top-notch and at the end of the day, if they do play the games, this better not turn into the COVID–Cup for the reasons I listed above.
What are your thoughts? (And please, no politics).
Stay safe and see ya out there!