This story has been updated with reports on Auston Matthews and Clemson
Auston Matthews, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, plays for the Maple Leafs, and when sports are in session, his home arena is just on the other side of Union Station in Toronto from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Maybe, at some point, Matthews has gone over and read the plaque for Joe Hall.
Hall, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and Hall of Fame defenseman, is the most important person in sports today.
He was one of the Montreal players who contracted influenza during the 1919 pandemic, which struck the Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans during the Stanley Cup Final. The series was abandoned before Game 6, but it was too late for Hall, who died four days after the cancellation.
Nobody wants another Joe Hall, and a century after his death, the sports world is getting a reminder that it is not immune from pandemics. Not that such a reminder hasn’t been a constant of this spring, with dozens of sports figures contracting coronavirus, but on Friday, it was particularly stark.
The line all along from health officials has been that the virus would tell us when it would be safe to return to play, and now the virus is screaming “NO!” as loudly as it can.
The Philadelphia Phillies closed their Florida facility after eight members of the organization, including five players, tested positive for COVID-19, and in a statement about the situation, the last line was foreboding at best.
“In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies’ 2020 season, the club declines comment, believing that it is too early to know.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of Tampa Bay from Clearwater, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Stanley Cup-contending Lightning had to close its training facility “because multiple players and some staff have tested positive for COVID-19.”
Later on Friday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Toronto Blue Jays shut down their facility in Dunedin, six miles north of Clearwater, after a player started exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.
On top of all that, Clemson announced 28 positive tests in its athletic department, and the South Carolina school’s local hospital has only 253 beds.
Finally, late Friday night, Major League Baseball shut down entirely, closing all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.
Coronavirus is spiraling out of control in Florida, reporting new record totals of positive tests three of the last four days. The inimitable governor of the Sunshine State, Ron DeSantis, has responded to the surge of the virus by spewing racism.
It’s Florida where the NBA, MLS, and WNBA all are planning to stage their season restarts, but with each passing day of the virus getting worse, it becomes harder to say just whether those plans reek most of arrogance, greed, or outright stupidity.
At some point, it’s also negligence. With entire organizations in different sports being forced to shut down their facilities due to outbreaks among their own teams, that point is now.
There is no excuse for there to be another Joe Hall. It’s time for everyone to stop before there is.