NHL Has Some Bad Ice Ahead

What to do during a pandemic?

The National Hockey League got lucky and was able to get a full playoff in with players agreeing to stay in two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. There were no games postponed, no teams that had COVID-19 problems. But looking ahead, the National Hockey League owners and players are facing steep obstacles in trying to get a 2020-2021 season underway. When do you start in the middle of a pandemic? Initially there was a thought that the NHL would be able to start on December 1st but it appears the December 1st date is wishful thinking. There is a significant problem within the league that is out of the league’s control. The United States-Canadian border is closed except for a few businesses that are essential. The NHL is not essential.

There is also a revenue problem, Television and marketing partnerships will produce money as long as there are games. But the NHL depends on arena revenue from customers spending on seats, merchandise, concessions and in most places parking. The bubble games had no customers.  It is highly unlikely that the NHL wants to stage games with no arena revenues available if people cannot get into the games because of COVID-19. There is a theory that COVID-19 spreads indoors more rapidly than outdoors. With the exception of some stadium series games, hockey is an indoor sport. There is a problem with no treatments or a vaccine. That could change by the start of the 2020-2021 season. There are lots of promises that a vaccine will be delivered or treatments will become available but there is no timeline for that to happen. The NHL could, in theory, open the doors in Sunrise and Tampa, Florida where there are lax restrictions. The NHL might be able to have customers in Columbus, Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis. But COVID-19 has not left the building.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars with Victor Hedman (77) during overtime in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)