The Hockey Business Has Serious COVID-19 Problems

COVID-19 has not left the building.

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman would like to see his business’s product, games, start on January 1st. That is the goal despite the fact that COVID-19 containment has not occurred in the United States and Canadian provinces are broadening business restrictions. In New York, it would be very unlikely that Rangers games at Madison Square Garden would have any customers as Broadway theaters are closed until June, 2021 at the earliest. New York’s Metropolitan Opera will not resume until September, 2021 as the Met’s 3,800 seat theater is not considered safe during the pandemic. There is one quasi-professional hockey group that is attempting to play. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League started the season but has run into COVID-19 related problems. Last Saturday’s game between Saint John and Moncton was postponed because the province of New Brunswick designated Moncton as an Orange alert zone. No sports allowed, venues are closed. The QMJHL was also dealing with a COVID-19 spread among some of its players, teenagers who get very little compensation for playing what amounts to professional hockey.

Bettman’s NHL probably would have been impacted had it been a normal start to the season. The province of Quebec has established red zones where team sports cannot be played until October 28th at the earliest. The Montreal Canadiens franchise would have been impacted. The QMJHL has 12 teams in Quebec. There are two other junior leagues in Canada. The Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League. Both are in limbo. The Ontario league could start play in December but the province has some guidelines. The OHL would have to eliminate in game body contact. Toronto and Ottawa are COVID-19 hot spots. The OHL also does not know what to do its three American teams as the US-Canadians border is shut. COVID-19 is not going away.

(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)