COVID-19’s Impact Across the Hockey World

covid-19 hockey
NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 08: The field of play remains empty as half the bank of lights in the arena went out in the second period during the game between the New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 8, 2010 at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

In all the times of tragedy, people are constantly in search for other outlets to help escape from reality. Sports have always been the perfect outlet for that void. When the Boston Marathon Bombing happened, the Boston Bruins helped bring #BostonStrong to a whole new level. They lifted the city through a tragic time and propelled the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals. After the horrific fall of the Twin Towers in 2001, the New York Yankees were able to make it to the World Series, later that year. Future Hall of Fame Goaltender Roberto Luongo gave an extremely heartfelt speech days after the Parkland school shooting. But with the world’s latest dive into madness, things are different. Not only has COVID-19 left an impact across the hockey world, it has affected sports of all kinds. Now, as we sit amid life-changing events, our worst nightmares have come to fruition. 

SPORTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED.  

March Madness? Gone, for both men and women. Along with all Division One NCAA sports this spring. Masters and the PGA? Postponed. The Kentucky Derby is postponed as well and even the casinos in Las Vegas are closed! The NBA and NHL: both suspended. The worst part of it all is that everyone is sitting in limbo, with no concrete answers. If, when, and how do any of these sports finish their seasons? What is it we are going to watch on TV!? They’re questions that everyone’s sure to have thought of in the last week. Yet, many do not realize the impact COVID-19 has beyond the loss of entertainment for the common person. Everyone has overlooked the humanity within sports yet once again. 

COVID-19 Impacts the Hockey World

The cancellation and suspensions of the College, ECHL, AHL, and NHL have left a puck-sized hole in the fans, desperately longing to be filled. While we, the fans and spectators, lose our entertainment for the nights to come, people are losing their jobs. 

The NHL relies heavily on ticket sales to stay afloat. Not to mention, their most lucrative period is the playoff season. In his 31 Thoughts: The Podcast Elliotte Friedman says he has guys “estimate between 700 million and a billion dollars” could be lost in revenue due to COVID-19. As the NHL stands, it is a $5 billion league. 

Losing that money will affect way more than just the possible rise in the salary cap. It causes problems greater than just the games on TV or the crowning of a champion. With no games, it means no one to make everything surrounding it happen. Everything and everyone from event and arena staff, even to local bars and restaurants located in and around the arena. All have been and will continue to be affected by the hiatus of sports. 

Hockey has always been a sport about the logo on the front, instead of the name on the back. This mindset continues to show, numerous teams and organizations finding ways to support their front line. Players like Sergei Bobrovsky donating $100,000, along with Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights combining to donate at least $600,000 to help game-day employees. NHL teams like all of the ones located in Canada have stepped in some way, shape, or form to assist arena and event staff during this time. 

More Than Just a Game

The NHL was not the only hockey league affected by this pandemic. NCAA and the East Coast league are done for the season and the American Hockey League is suspended till at least May, leaving countless players in a hockey purgatory for the seeable future. COVID-19’s impact across the hockey world can be seen in NCAA college hockey especially. 

Much like all the college seniors, whose seasons were cut short without any say at all. Former Sacred Heart Pioneer and current professional free agent Austin Mcilmurray said it best after losing his last chance at a ring, “the expression ‘your heart sinks to your stomach’ is used often, but how often do people truly feel that feeling.”

Prior to pre-game warmups, Mcilmurray’s coach ordered them all into the lockerroom. “His face kinda said it all, everyone was hoping it (the games) would be moved to another weekend and just postponed. But he went into detail about how it’s all over for good. The season’s done.” After four years of hard work and on the verge of the team’s best season in program history, everything was ripped away from them with two sentences. “You knew right away, you could almost see tears in his eyes. He was so upset for us, the program, and the school.” 

College Seniors everywhere walked into the rink expecting to play a playoff game. Instead, they were forced to leave with no outcome, good or bad. Never putting that sweater on again. “And the seniors, I can’t even imagine what they are feeling right now. They have worked four years to get to this point in their hockey career just to be ended abruptly in a matter of minutes” said Bentley University defenceman Hunter Toale

Affects Across All Leagues

Not only is this affecting these college players everywhere. The minor league teams have received the short end of the stick as well. With the cancellation of the ECHL and the suspension of the AHL, the opportunities have become limited. When speaking with both an AHL and ECHL player, they all had a similar response to the pandemic. One thought is about the time off. Anyone on the injured reserve list has just been given another life, with more than enough time to recover and make a crack back at the line-up. Leaving minor league guys on the bubble, completely ignored at this point. 

Another situation that has come to the forefront is players on expiring contracts or tryouts. These players with no say on how they were to finish their college careers. Now also have no chance of moving forward. Players on some sort of professional tryout contract all have been cut short. Regardless of their performance, the professional team can’t even do anything about it until the virus passes. Forced to move back home, waking up every day wondering if they will ever get back to that level.

One thing that can be said for everyone at every level, this is affecting everyone’s development moving forward. With gyms being shut down and ice time hard to get, even if players wanted to train, where would they go?

Looking Towards the Future

Without a doubt, it is a blessing to play a game as your career. Yet, this is still how these players put food on the tables and clothes on their backs. Without the games, they have no income.

As each day passes, the coronavirus continues to grow with no signs of slowing down. Leaving more and more unanswered questions with no only sports but schools, jobs, and the economy. 

As April rears its head, we are so used to playoffs beginning to start that we have taken the greatest time of year for granted. Like everyone else, players or spectators alike, we are all sitting, waiting, and watching for the good news. Until then, our patience is being put to the test. 

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