COVID concerns lead to big changes in this year’s NHL season

The number of games have been slashed, playoffs shortened, and team travel severely limited.

As a defenceman that in a Bantam hockey league, the shortage of NHL games and not being able to watch live can affect me. As a player, I like to watch hockey games in real life so I can get the whole point of view of the games. On TV, they don’t show all the small plays, passes, or even the positioning of a player, just the goals, big hits, and big plays. 

2021 is going to be a very complicated year for sports, especially hockey. Just like other sports, there will still be no spectators allowed in the stands, unless the team approves of allowing a limited number of fans to watch games. The only team who approved this were the Dallas Stars. Spectator-less games can affect the sport, since the loud cheering and adrenaline will be missing. Afterall, that is what the fans bring to every game, but with them gone, the blasting loud music is still not a replacement, so that energy and excitement will have to be gained another way.  

COVID-19 has not only messed up the whole hockey season but has also caused the season games to drop from 82 to 56 in a matter of time, with the season ending May 8th if everything goes according to plan. Due to the shortage of games, teams will not have as much time to train and prepare for playoffs, which are also going to look quite different this year, because of COVID. 

This year, instead of playing in a bubble, NHL teams will play teams in their geographical division. For example, Canadian teams will only play other Canadian teams during the regular season. 

If you didn’t think it could get any worse, the Winter Classics also got cancelled. The Winter Classics is a regular hockey season, but all games are played in an outdoor arena. It’s usually hosted in a football or baseball arena.  

The 13th of January was when the first games were played in the 2021 hockey season, and for one of the first games played, the Canucks clutched a 5-3 game versus the Edmonton Oilers.  

Getting back into the hockey season is going to be tough for all the teams. If this hockey season all goes according to plan with no flaws, it will end around the middle of July. Then playoffs begin, with no qualifying round this year. 

It is difficult to stay social distanced and safe while playing a sport involving frequent contact. Due to Covid, each team was tested for the virus every time they entered the rink.  

The Vancouver Canucks were all tested one practice, and one test came back positive. Just because of this small case, Vancouver’s team was forced to cancel practice. During a preconference, Bo Horvat said: “You can’t be naive; you have to be extra careful.”  

The Senators were the first team to be hit by COVID-19, but the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins were all affected by this shortly after the Canucks.  

Games are going to look different this year. As it seems few are excited for this season, it’s all downhill from here. There has been a rumour going around, saying if numbers keep rising, the season will be canceled right now and will be resumed during the summer to finish playoffs. This is just a rumour however, and it has yet to be confirmed. 

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “It’s easier to lose then to win.” However, this doesn’t just go for the players. This year, that saying goes for everyone both on and off the ice. 

Image credit: wikimedia, Tim bunce

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