In what has been an incredibly challenging year across the planet, one of the relative successes has been the NHL. It started late last summer, with a playoff bubble that, while unpleasant, successfully delivered an Stanley Cup Champion and now major outbreaks.
This hockey season has gone off much better than I expected as well. There have certainly been some misfires, cancelled and postponed games, and a lot of games between the Blues and Coyotes all in a row. Those cancellations were about a month ago, about at the time when I’m sure players were growing complacent, and the virus leaked back into locker rooms, but then, it’s been pretty quiet ever since.
Despite all that has gone on in the world, and even the NHL, I was still surprised to learn that the Buffalo-Boston series was called off due to Covid concerns. Sure, I should have come to expect these things based on how things on Earth are right now, but the bad news hasn’t been the torrent I was expecting this season to be. So it was a shock.
Hockey locker rooms are perfect incubators for most diseases. There was a mumps outbreak a couple of years ago, and the mumps aren’t something that anyone has had since the 50s. It seemed COVID should have thrived in the confined, sweaty spaces of a locker room, but alas, even in that conduit, it has not spread.
I suspect there are a variety of factors in COVID’s hold on the NHL not being as tight. I think first off, the NHL learned how to keep teams safe during the bubble, and teams learned and adapted quickly, and were willing to adapt for the season, thanks to demonstrated success in 2020. Second, I think there is a conscious realization that the NHL and its locker rooms are waiting to spread disease in the best of times, and that elicits compliance from players who don’t want to spread this particular ailment. Then, of course, there is the fact that most of the players are not American. Even Canadians, if they are playing in the US, can’t go home. That kind of drastic change must lead to a response, or at least taking the responsibilities of spread prevention seriously. More seriously than most sports, or really most Americans, probaby. Every hockey player has been too close to an outbreak already, and they knew what to do.
If you were like me, shocked a bit to see a game called off or motivated, consider all the work that went into making that kind of news a rarity. Good work, hoceye.