Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, said a very smart thing on Thursday as he explained his decision to keep schools closed in the Granite State for the rest of the academic year.
“The asymptomatic transmission of this virus is very prevalent,” Sununu said. “You could have an entire classroom of kids passing COVID back and forth without a single symptom, without a sniffle.”
Meanwhile, there is concern in New Hampshire about campgrounds remaining open, especially as summer approaches. Because America is a place with a significant number of people who refuse to be told what to do, regardless of the safety implications, there is legitimate reason for that worry.
“We’re a small, fairly rural area and right now we’re seeing a lot of people from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York that are coming up here on the weekend,” Conway Fire Chief Steve Solomon told the New Hampshire Union-Leader. “They’re coming from hot spots and they have the potential to bring sick people here and potentially overwhelm our small community hospital.”
Putting it bluntly, Lancaster emergency management director Ben Gaetjens-Oleson asked: “If we’re in [a] stay-at-home order, why are we opening up opportunities for people to not stay at home?”
And that brings us to Friday morning, when Sununu was quoted as saying that the possibility of resuming the NHL season in Manchester is “on the table.”
The full context was not that simple.
“I’ve had discussions about that,” Sununu said on The Greg Hill Show on Boston station WEEI. “I don’t know whether it’s going to happen, but we are talking about it. That’s all I can really say right now, because, I gotta tell ya, it would be a very interesting opportunity for New Hampshire. But even the venues would have to say, ‘Yes, we want this.’ Because we’ve got to make sure, what are the liabilities here? What if a team were to get sick? How is it going to be managed? We’re looking at some of the logistics. But it’s on the table, for sure.”
Sununu said that the NHL was looking at multiple cities across the country, which does make some sense. Maybe it would be a case where four cities host four teams apiece, and that’s how they run a 16-team playoff, with the winner of a pod in each city moving to a Final Four somewhere.
What’s difficult, though, is squaring the thought of the state keeping its schools closed — and rural residents urging economically disastrous campground shutdowns in the name of safety — with the notion of Manchester hosting NHL games.
Even bringing four NHL teams to Manchester would mean an influx of hundreds of people. For what, exactly? It’s not like the people of New Hampshire are going to get to go to these games. There won’t be a lot of game-day jobs to be had as they try to pull things off with the most skeletal crew possible. The state won’t get a whole lot of tax dollars out of it. And the community gets to experience heightened risk as hotel staff, food service workers, security guards, and all of their families face additional exposure to more germs, all in the name of helping the NHL salvage some hockey-related revenue and giving NBC some new programming?
It’s also not like Manchester is some out-of-the-way place just because it’s in New Hampshire. It’s 50 miles from Boston. Would the NHL right now be talking about resuming its season in Trenton, New Jersey? Toledo, Ohio? Hamilton, Ontario? And it’s not like Manchester is tiny, it has a population of more than 100,000 in the city proper.
Maybe it really is “on the table” for the NHL to resume play in Manchester, but that table is extremely wobbly. All of the reasons to keep schools closed and all of the reasons for camping towns to want campgrounds closed are reasons that apply to bringing in professional hockey. It makes sense that politicians would want to provide a reason for optimism in the middle of a crisis, but in that effort, we wind up with pull quotes like “on the table.” The result is glossing over the details and easily-visible obstacles, and fostering more hope than is reasonable for a frivolity that isn’t even all that likely.