This entire website has been built on the back of Gary Bettman and the NHL perpetually finding ways to trip over their own skates. Naturally, as teams were trying to navigate their way out of stay at home orders during the Covid-19 pandemic and try to conclude the season, I anticipated mayhem.
This time, though, that anticipation was tinged with dread, rather than the giddiness I have come to be accustomed to. This time, there were literal lives on the line, rather than a few bucks or hockey games. The NHL truly couldn’t screw this up.
Sure, the NHL made some missteps, but they course corrected very quickly. They were late to join protests and sports-wide athlete boycotts for social justice, but they were only late, not completely absent. On a sliding scale, that’s better than usual for the NHL.
In other areas, they leveraged a significant advantage: Canadian markets, which were handling Covid much more successfully. Players have been responsible, too, that is an important part of it. They’ve seen no positive tests in either Edmonton or Toronto for weeks. That’s really tough to do, even in Canada, for as many people as are in those bubbles.
The product has been good, too. There was an extra round of the playoffs, an extra lottery for draft positioning, and with every team in one of the two arenas with cameras set up for national broadcasts, hockey fans we able to see 24 teams, many of whom they may not typically see. When does NBCSN air Flames games, after all? It’s been a perfect introduction of the individual stars of the league to the national audience.
In the end, though, hockey is one of the best things to see live, and while this has been a nice couple of months (aside from all of the factors that led the NHL to have to make these choices), it is in everyone’s best interest to get back to normal. If the League has earned nothing else, at least they should have a little bit of grace.