Last week, I laid out all the obstacles the Vancouver Canucks would face returning to action after nearly three weeks out thanks to a swath of positive COVID tests, with some players seriously ill with the virus, as well as some of their families being at risk. I argued that their season should just be chalked off, because that would be the logical and humane thing to do.
Apparently the Canucks agree with me. But what we both forgot is that the NHL, or any sports league, can get around those obstacles as long as it pretends they aren’t there. We said it during MLB’s season, and during the NFL’s, that if a league is so determined to say that it completed its schedule and “overcame” COVID because their protocols and determination was just that much, then there’s nothing going to stop them. As long as you get through it, it’s a success, even if you ignored everything to do so. If I crash the car twice on the way to my destination and arrive missing a door or two and the trunk is on fire, I still got there, right? The accomplishment is the statement, not the path the league took.
J.T. Miller sees it, which means the Canucks as a whole see it. They haven’t played in three weeks. They haven’t even skated in that time. And they’re getting a practice or two before their first game back on Friday. They have to play 19 games in 31 days. And you can be sure that the league is going to make them play it, so they can say that every team finished its schedule of 56 games, and that it was a success, even though there was no other option for anyone.
But it’s not safe. Two practices is not enough to prepare players to play one NHL game, much less the horse-choking amount they have left in the one month on the calendar. Guys are going to get hurt. They certainly won’t be sharp. They have no reasonable expectation to compete fairly. They’re being forced into merely completing the numbers. To fill out a spreadsheet, essentially.
This is where a real players’ union would step in, and fight the employers on behalf of its members. They’re at risk. It’s dangerous. And yet, not a peep from the NHLPA. Because they have to fight the fines and suspensions for players who try to turn the brains of other players into baked potato soup. Some organization they have there.