Hartnett: Here’s To Hoping Hockey Isn’t Gone For Long

Pause In Season Comes As Rangers Were Making Playoff Push

Sean Hartnett
March 13, 2020 - 10:15 am

The coronavirus pandemic is a serious situation that is much larger than sports. From schools to workplaces to the stock market and beyond, daily life in North America has been altered by the outbreak.

Win-loss records suddenly get placed on the backburner when everyday life concerns become the priority.

On Thursday, the NHL joined other sports leagues by announcing that it will pause the 2019-20 season. Teams on the road are returning home and players are being asked to self-quarantine. Though the league is taking all the necessary precautions, Commissioner Gary Bettman underscored the importance of completing the season and playoffs.

“Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup,” Bettman said in a statement. “Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

The NHL Players' Association issued a similar statement as the league, closing with “the players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere.”

Prior to the suspending of NHL games, the last day of the regular season was scheduled for April 4. The Stanley Cup Playoffs were scheduled to start April 6. Even a best-case scenario would push back these dates. It’s entirely possible that the playoffs could stretch into July. The Rangers have 12 regular season games remaining and are separated from the second wild-card spot by two points.

The situation could change quickly for better or worse based on the nature of the virus and how the medical community responds. Yet Bettman’s words are tinged with optimism.

Some of the most ardent Rangers fans are already bemoaning the possibility of the Blueshirts’ playoff push being dashed by the pandemic. Fans have begun to speculate whether Henrik Lundqvist has already played his last game as a Ranger. The club’s all-time wins leader most recently relieved Igor Shesterkin in a March 7 defeat to the rival Devils.

Let’s not get carried away with all the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios. Whether you’re a player, a ref, a fan or a media member, all you can do is take precautions and hope that hockey’s return isn’t far away.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.