I've never really been able to find an entry point to European soccer. So many leagues! So many teams! And I've never had any particular inclination to get up at 6 a.m. on weekends.
But I have to admit, there is something kinda nice about seeing Bundesliga games on my TV this weekend. And seeing former Whitecap Alphonso Davies doing his thing with Bayern Munich as I type this — and seemingly playing quite well — might just be that entry point I need.
That being said, I'm not usually one to jump onboard with a top team — which Bayern certainly seems to be. They've won the last seven league championships! Obviously, utterly unfamiliar territory for those of us who live in Canucks-land.
Now I'm flipping over to golf — a charity event called Driving Relief that's being played in Florida, with Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson going up against Matthew Wolff and Rickie Fowler — and wearing shorts, something they're not allowed to do in a normal PGA tournament.
The soccer guys certainly got tangled up with each other a bit, and I saw some high fives and pats on the head. But it does look like it's pretty easy for the golfers to keep their social distance, even with a few cameramen and tournament officials out on the course with them.
They're carrying their own bags, too. No caddies!
There has been talk for years about how golf has struggled to attract younger viewers and players. I wonder if more people will become interested in taking up the sport due to current circumstances, or if the economic barriers will be too high?
That preamble leads into Sunday's report from Pierre LeBrun that the NHL's Return to Play Committee has been meeting all weekend and seems to be edging closer to deciding on a plan that could get hockey back on the ice.
In his accompanying article at The Athletic
, LeBrun also mentions that a decision on the timing of the draft could come this week — and that even though there has been opposition from the general managers to the idea of holding the draft in June, that decision ultimately belongs to Gary Bettman. No vote is required.
As far as the return-to-play format, each team would get one vote, cast by their NHLPA player representative. You can see the full list of team reps here
. Most teams have an Executive Board rep and an alternate, but a few have just one representative, including Vancouver. Bo Horvat is listed as the alternate, while the primary rep position is blank.
By the way — Horvat and his French bulldog, Gus, were interviewed by Dan Murphy earlier this week for the latest in the Hockey @ Home series:
Anyway — LeBrun says that while there are some players who are reluctant to return to play, the sense he gets is that the majority would like to come back. And even though they don't get paycheques in the playoffs, a return to play absolutely impacts their wallets. The more hockey-related revenue is generated, the larger the players' 50 percent share of the pie. The smaller the pie, the more astronomical their escrow withholdings could be.
There has been some talk that maybe some creative accounting over the next few years will help lessen the pay cut that players will be forced to take. And the salary cap situation certainly factors into this whole discussion as well.
The current CBA is now set to expire on September 15, 2022 — just two seasons after this one. I'm sure both sides would like to find a way to draft an extension as part of the post-pandemic plan. The good news is that the league and the players' association seem like they've been working very cooperatively throughout this process.
As for going straight to a 24-team playoff — it sounds like the thinking behind that is twofold. First, it saves teams who are clearly out of the playoff picture from needing to reconvene for just a handful of games — something it sounds like many of them were reluctant to do.
Second, it saves the league from having to make a call on which of the teams that were bunched so closely together at the bottom of the standings would make it into the playoffs. And, of course, the more markets are invited, the more fan interest we'd see.
Even the players who do want to get back on the ice have been pretty adamant that they don't want to jump straight into a normal playoff series. Sounds like the thinking right now is that the teams that are grouped in each location could start off by playing a round-robin, one game against each other team in their group. Then, those results would be added to their regular-season results — probably using points percentage to keep it even for everybody. That would determine the playoff seeding.
It's too soon to speculate on where that would set up the Canucks, standings-wise. But it does sound like Vancouver has reached the knockout round for potential hub city locations.
According to Scott Burnside of The Athletic
, the list of top possbilities has now been narrowed down to Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Vegas, Dallas and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Earlier this week, I tossed around the names of some of the AHLers that the Canucks might want to bring in as Black Aces. But the more I've thought about that, the more I realize there won't be that many spots to fill, even to get to 30 players.
If everyone's healthy, as we expect, on the main roster we've got:
Centers (5): Pettersson - Horvat - Gaudette - Beagle - Sutter
Wingers (11): Boeser - Miller - Pearson - Toffoli - Roussel - Virtanen - MacEwen - Eriksson - Motte - Ferland - Leivo
Defense (7): Hughes - Tanev - Edler - Stecher - Fantenberg - Myers - Benn
Goalies (3): Markstrom - Demko - Domingue
That's 26. Plus, they should be able to bring in their college signings Marc Michaelis and Will Lockwood if they choose — those players are typically eligible to jump straight in to the end of the regular season, as we saw with Quinn Hughes last season, or even directly to the playoffs like Cale Makar did last year with Colorado.
As a European signing, I don't think Nils Hoglander would be eligible to come over until next year, based on how the European transfer agreement works.
Through the Canucks are already deeper at wing than any other position, I'd definitely be intrigued to see the 24-year-old Hobey Baker Finalist Michaelis get brought in. He's listed as a C/LW, so he should be versatile enough that he could fill a gap if needed.