The Colorado Avalanche still have a chance to play out the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The NHL is getting serious about returning to play.
The Colorado Avalanche may be on ice again as early as May 15 — at least in small groups in practice facilities. Larry Brooks of the New York Post has reported that at least one team has informed players to “be prepared to report” for informal workouts as early as May 15.
The NHL has established a Return to Play Committee. They’ve been in contact with each other via conference calls. They include both commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly as well as some active players such as John Tavares, Connor McDavid, James van Riemsdyk, Mark Scheifele and Ron Hainsey. The meetings include medical personnel as appropriate.
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As noted in previous posts, no one is imagining the 2019-20 season will resume in all NHL cities. Rather, the NHL wants to concentrate in centralized locations where all players, team staff, and arena staff will be quarantined in hotels. At first the NHL was considering non-NHL arenas like the one at the University of North Dakota. However, they’re now concentrating on NHL arenas because they’re the only ones up the NHL standards.
Unfortunately, Denver doesn’t appear to be making the cut of arenas being considered, not that it matters so much since fans can’t attend. Favorites now seem to be Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto, Edmonton, and Pittsburgh.
What the NHL plans to do is to hold remaining games and the playoffs tournament style. So, the teams in each conference would be centralized in that city to minimize travel. It sounds like if teams play out any remaining regular season games, it won’t necessarily be against whomever they had left on the docket. Instead, they’d play strictly within their own Division. From there, they’d move to where they need to be for the playoffs.
For the duration of this centralized play, the arenas would see as many as three games a day being played. Of course, there’d be no need to get fans in and out of buildings. Therefore, the only turnaround time is for the teams and sanitation. Players would be temperature checked before entering the buildings and also be tested regularly.
The resumption of play is a divisive topic. Many fans think the 2019-20 season should just be cancelled with play resuming as normal in October. What fans might not realize is that play may not be able to resume under even quasi-normal circumstances in October. There’s no reason to believe fans can be in full attendance just five months from now.
However, there’s also a question about how credible a product the NHL could put out right now. If the teams are playing with full rosters, there really is not question about the quality of the product even if they’re in centralized locations without fans. The problem comes if multiple players become infected and teams have to start injecting that many AHLers into the lineup.
COVID-19 isn’t something you can play through. It’s even more serious than a broken jaw because of how communicable it is. Therefore, if five or six players test positive, they’re out for two weeks.
This becomes true come October, too, though. The games are lower-stake, true. However, the season is not going to resume normally in October. I personally do not think we will see a normal resumption of the season — with full audiences in attendance — until 2021.
So, if the NHL can ensure safety for the teams and staff, I’d want to see the 2019-20 season played out for the sake of the Colorado Avalanche. It’ll be something new in a fun way. Not the grind we’re going to be facing come the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
But it all depends on getting the pandemic under control.