We could be on the cusp of a return for hockey and, no matter what the NHL may look like, we should just be grateful that the Vegas Golden Knights will be back in our lives.
In what was the most positive news since the National Hockey League went on lockdown back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports emerged today that suggests hockey could be back soon.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the NHL and the NHLPA Return To Play Committee are making progress on a 24-team playoff format after being locked in talks all weekend.
With further discussions expected this coming week, we could well be in for a big week of hockey-related news.
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Plus, we could also get an announcement on the 2020 NHL Entry Draft this week, with LeBrun reporting that holding the flagship event in June before the season returns may not be feasible anymore.
Overall, it is the best and most positive news we have heard in a while and, although nothing has been finalized, we at least have very real hope that hockey and the Golden Knights could be back this year.
Of course, a lot of kinks will need to be ironed out of the 24-team Playoff format and what identity that will take on.
LeBrun mentioned in his story that the NHL is planning on fitting in some kind of regular-season games before the playoffs begin, which will be ideal for teams and players to shake off any rink rust.
After that, what will the exact plan be?
Will all top seeds be given a bye while those bubble teams contest a play-in? What teams will get in?
What four cities will become the NHL Hub Sites?
And what exactly will the Testing Policy be?
Then there is the reality that hockey will look completely different to the game we love once it does return.
For starters, there will be no fans in the buildings and, as a result, chirps between players and instructions from the behind the bench will become much more audible.
The games as a whole will be eerily quiet, however, and there is a danger contests could represent glorified games of shinny.
Also, will the players be able to motivate themselves with no real atmosphere inside the rink to get them going?
With the Stanley Cup on the line you would like to think self-motivation will be no such problem, but it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this will be alien to the players as well.
It has been floated out there that artificial crowd noise could be introduced, although that will be very strange too.
In-fact, introducing fake crowd noise could make the lack of fans even worse, but everything will be an experiment for the NHL once hockey does return.
Just look at the Bundesliga which returned this weekend. The top Soccer League in Germany played without fans, and the first game saw Borussia Dortmund rout rivals Schalke 4-0 with social-distancing celebrations and a handful of claps from stadium workers present all featuring.
It made for a strange spectacle but, at the end of the day, sports without fans is better than no sports full stop.
Going back to the National Hockey League and there is also the question of would fighting and dropping the gloves be allowed?
After all, two sweaty men hurling punches at each other with body fluids flying all over the place wouldn’t be ideal in the current world we live in.
All these questions and a lot more will need to be answered before a return is rubber-stamped and confirmed, and it will be interesting to see what the NHL comes up with in regards to trying to compensate for the loss of no fans and no atmosphere inside the building.
Overall, we have to accept that when hockey and the Golden Knights do return this summer, the product is going to be like something we have never seen before.
And, while it may take some getting used to, we shouldn’t complain given that hockey and Vegas Golden Knights hockey without fans is better than no Vegas Golden Knights hockey.
These are strange times we live in and nothing at the moment is normal, so the quicker we accept that about sports then the quicker we can enjoy hockey for what it is no matter what it looks like should it return.