A security guard peers out from behind NHL branded fencing at the entrance where players arrive at Toronto’s Royal York hotel on Sunday, July 26, which is acting as the “bubble” ahead of the return of the league’s season following disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Young/CP photo)

Hockey’s comeback begins in earnest in August

Mitchell’s Musings

Sports is back. Well, at least sports in a bubble is back.

By Glenn Mitchell

To celebrate B.C. Day one could have watched six National Hockey League games, along with a Toronto Raptors contest, if one was so inclined.

It may seem odd to sit inside all day watching hockey in August when it’s 33 Celsius outside but tell me what’s felt normal since March 12? Plus, you’re social distancing, right?

And it’s not that different from binge watching your new favourite show on Netflix, except with the beauty of sports the ending isn’t predetermined.

Well, it might be for the Canucks and/or Leafs since 1971 and 1967 respectively. Ahem.

So one goes from no sports for four-and-a-half months to ODing on sports in one weekend with much, much more to come. It truly is a crazy world.

I am a sports fan so I did miss it but I also realized it wasn’t exactly an essential service.

However, it feels real good to watch it again, even sans fans, and it’s difficult not get caught up in your favourite teams’ fortunes.

It’s a bit of normalcy during a time of anything but, and it also funnily enough gives one a bit of hope.

Maybe our team will win it all this year, likely not, but for a few fleeting days anything’s possible (well, unless you’re an Ottawa Senators fan, and if you are, what gives?) and it feels good.

Sure it’s a diversion but it’s such a refreshing change from cable news where it looks like the world is going down and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

So might as well watch hockey. And basketball. And golf. And baseball, if it can get its act together.

It’s pretty good hockey too. Obviously the players missed it and are playing intensely and with purpose, you know like when someone takes something away from you that you took for granted and when you get it back you want to make sure it won’t happen again if you have anything to say about it. Like that.

And the fans get to live through it vicariously at a time when they really need something to cheer about and something to believe in, even if, like I said, it may not mean that much in the grand scheme of things. Yet, it’s the grand scheme of things that we’re having trouble believing in right now, so why not?

If you’re a bubble sport fan, hockey and basketball, you’re in luck as it looks, so far, like playing in one or two venues under quarantine may just work – keep your fingers crossed, and washed of course.

However, baseball – which is still travelling to different venues in a country that’s only leading the way in one thing, how not to survive a pandemic – is closing in on a full count with at least one out in the bottom of the ninth.

The Miami Marlins, who were used to playing in front of no fans in pre-pandemic times, has like 17 players with COVID-19 and the season is in its infancy. I don’t see how they can carry on and they could be the poster boys for the rest of baseball pretty soon.

Although I was thinking I always dreamed of playing in the majors when I was a kid at Lakeview and Polson Park – “way to pitch, Mitch” – and this might be my big chance, the Marlins are going to be desperate for players soon. If only I could get over the border somehow, if only I could hit a curveball, if only I wasn’t 60 years old, if only…

Anyway, sorry, you lost me for a second there.

If baseball, where people barely touch each other, can’t pull it off in a pandemic where does that leave the NFL and college football this fall?

There’s a lot of touching in football. It’s called tackling actually (touch football is something different, ahem), and the rosters are like twice as large as baseball. Throw in the support staff etc. and you have more people on the sidelines than Dr. Bonnie allows to gather at any given time in the province of British Columbia (that’s 50 by the way).

Believe me, I want it to happen for everyone’s sake but I don’t see how they can pull it off in the present, or worse, circumstances.

And if Trump thought he had popularity problems presiding over an America during a medical and economic crisis, try being the first U.S. president to rule without the gridiron.

He may not want to hang around until Nov. 3.

Meanwhile, hockey’s back. Go, Canucks, go.

Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of the Vernon Morning Star.


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