It’s hard to know why the NHL has had more postponements and players held out (90) than the NBA in its still-not-even-a-month-old season. Maybe it’s because of the nature of the sport — the benches, the contact, the more crowded dressing rooms, whatever. Because the NHL is basically mum on why exactly a player goes on the protocol list, we don’t know if it’s a positive test or merely contact tracing.But what we do know is that three teams are currently on hold. The Minnesota Wild were added to the list next to New Jersey and Buffalo, and those two teams have their beef with each other about how the Devils’ situation was handled in Buffalo. Venerable hockey commentator Bob McKenzie, on NBCSN last night, was talking about team-to-team transmission of the virus, which puts the whole enterprise on the brink. Minnesota had to put five players on the list yesterday.
So now all eyes turn to the Avalanche over the next couple days, as they just played the Wild three times. If the league has a second team-to-team transmission, it’s going to be highly entertaining to watch the backbends they’ll have to perform to justify keeping this season going.
But the NHL aren’t the only ones. The NWHL had to bang the rest of its Isobel Cup tournament in Lake Placid thanks to COVID issues. The Metropolitan Riveters had to pull out of the tournament earlier, and then the Connecticut Whale did the same Monday. Two players on Minnesota tested positive yesterday, and the whole thing was postponed. The league hopes to resume it somewhere down the line.
It’s a real shame for the league, as it was poised to have the semifinals and final of the tournament on NBCSN this weekend. And that would have been the league’s biggest exposure to date. But the whole thing, as illustrated by this timeline, was something of a mess, with trainers and personnel hopping from team to team and players outside the bubble added in mid-tournament, which sort of defeats the whole point of a bubble. Some have suggested that’s why Connecticut pulled out, fearing its and other teams’ safety mixing with players that hadn’t gone through the same process as the rest.
Unfortunately for the players and league, the biggest story out of their attempt to play would be their dealings with The Website That Shall Not Be Named, and they deserve better than that. At least the players that don’t associate with that hellscape do.
But this is the struggle of trying to play through a pandemic. There just isn’t anything that’s going to work, and everyone is making it up as they go along.
In some sentimental news, it appears Felix Hernandez is going to sign a minor-league deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The last time you saw King Felix, he was walking off the mound at Safeco Field, sharing one last ovation with Mariners fans that he had delighted for 15 years, as both he and the fans tried to ignore how badly they’d been let down by the team itself.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player more beloved by a fanbase than Hernandez and Ms fans, and that was a two-way street. Maybe it was because Mariners fans realized that this team had no business having a jewel like Felix, who, had he been a Yankee, Red Sox, or Cub would probably have been given fast-track entry to Cooperstown by now. So if the team wasn’t going to build the supporting cast Hernandez so deserved, they would at least worship him in a way to make up for it. The fans never stopped letting Felix know how lucky they felt, and yet he pitched in front of them as if he felt just as lucky to be their player.
Maybe it was both fans and player realizing they were utterly fucked with the organization and how it was run, so loving each other unabashedly was the only way to survive it.
Is Hernandez finished? Probably. Reports said he looked good during spring training with the Braves last year, but he opted out of the season. It would be affirming to see Felix still produce something, because players who look like they’re having as much fun as he always did should be cherished. Certainly clearing the bar to make the O’s rotation isn’t all that high, but that doesn’t mean we want to see Felix getting crushed by the Yankees or Jays or Rays multiple times a month.
Should Hernandez make the Orioles, in some ways maybe it’s a good thing that a return to Seattle would be in an empty stadium. Felix’s sendoff from Seattle was so perfect, and should be capsuled as such. Especially returning with another sad-sack team. Some things we should just keep.