Graziano: The NHL And All Sports Made The Right Call

The Risks Of Playing Are Not Worth The Profit

Andy Graziano
March 13, 2020 - 1:17 pm

The New York Islanders could have played their last game of the 2019-20 season Tuesday evening. A 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, which left them without a regulation win over their past seven games.

The loss left New York outside of the playoff picture, trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point, however, with two games in hand. Logically, that was the furthest thing on their minds as they returned to their homes from Calgary on Thursday by order of the National Hockey League.

“You think about a little bit of the future and it’s scary times,” Trotz said to the Athletic Tuesday. “Whatever the government decides in terms of doing what’s right, whether it’s quarantine or whatever, we do it. Even if we don’t understand, there are people above my pay grade making those decisions. Whatever is best to get this thing put away, everybody should be on board. There shouldn’t be any pushback.”

Oct 28, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz (right) looks on from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Bettman and the league then decided, following the news coming out of the NBA, to suspend the season Thursday afternoon, putting a halt to everything, including practices and meetings. All players are being told to go home and self-isolate as much as possible, following the recommendation of the CDC to avoid possible community spread. It is a reach, and would be a miracle honestly, to believe that all 800+ players right now would test negative if subjected to testing. The league, agree or disagree, made the right call.

Even if you subscribe to the early findings that a player, who is in terrific physical condition with no underlying health concerns, would likely not feel more than common cold symptoms, if anything at all, there are rare exceptions. And you have to consider who is walking around without any symptoms or testing and who they could potentially pass the virus onto. Players have families, some elderly, some with the aforementioned underlying problems, children. The risk is just not worth the profit.

Nobody knows what the league will look like upon its return. Sources have indicated that Bettman is looking at a possible three-week shutdown. That seems very optimistic, but not totally impossible. States are taking the necessary isolation and quarantine methods to slow the spread and zero in on ‘hotspots’. The majority are dismissing the notion that you can just ‘end’ the season and award playoff spots on current positioning due to games in hand affecting points percentage. And the league knows they would be hard pressed to play into late June and July due to ice concerns.

Is the most logical outcome cancelling the season and starting fresh with training camp in September, 2020? Back in 2005, there was no cup awarded due to the lockout. You would have to go all the way back to 1919 to find a similar scenario, when Spanish flu prevented the world's greatest trophy from being awarded.

Stay safe, logical and courteous. While this is no need for panic, it’s also not a time to be complacent. Both can exist in real time. Hockey, at the end of the day, and sports in general, while being our escape and providing hours of entertainment, are rightfully taking a step back for the good of all involved.

You can follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyGraz_WFAN