Well. It’s come to this.
What started with mysterious, and at-the-time unknown, illness in eastern China in mid-November has wildly spiraled into entire nations shutting down completely in just three month’s time. The effects of the dubbed novel coronavirus — or COVID-19, to add more intimidation to its name — are really now only just beginning to be felt here in the United States.
On thursday, March 12 it felt like the world came to a screeching halt. In many ways it felt like a national tragedy. Hurricane Katrina, Haiti, 9/11, Deepwater Horizon, the Challenger explosion, Chernobyl, the stock market crash. It seems fair to now add coronavirus to a list like that. Events, tragedies, disasters — call it what you will — thankfully, don’t happen often. When they do, however, the effects and the raw emotion are felt globally. A shockwave surges across continents. It’s pandemonium. It’s mass hysteria.
But this feels largely different than any of the aforementioned tragedies. This one is unprecedented.
The U.S. stock market is in the midst of its worst crash since the infamous “Black Monday” plummet of 1987. The entire country of Italy is under lockdown and others could follow suit. Businesses are closing its doors. Travel bans are being enacted. Hospitals in Italy are being urged to stop treating elderly patients for fear of wasted resources on that lower-survival rate demographic, and to instead turn their attention and those resources towards those with a higher chance of survival. A lack of beds, facilities and treatment options has its grip tight on the medical community, as doctors try their best to keep up with the rapidity of the cases exponential increase.
All of this a result of an invisible biological agent.
For us here in this community, the Colorado Avalanche, the National Hockey League at large — like so many other leagues — has suspended the season until the virus is contained. There is no timeline on a return. There may be no return. The Colorado Avalanche has its best team since the ‘01 Cup run and to think that may all go to waste over a pandemic is gut-wrenching.
Nearly 101 years ago to the day, the NHL was forced into a similar predicament. The league cancelled the season during the Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Seattle Metropolitans and Montreal Canadiens due to the 1919 Spanish Flu. No Cup was awarded that year.
Logistically, it will be next to impossible to continue the regular season. With a dozen or so games to go, rescheduling NHL games, NBA games, concerts and other events, which often all share the same venue, would be a nightmare. To extend the season by even one additional month would require a whole slew of rescheduling.
Think about it. The Stanley Cup Finals are usually wrapped up in early June each year. Move that back a month or so and you’re looking at wrapping the season in July or August. That would mean the late-June draft would need to be moved. The July 1 free agency deadline period would need to be moved. Everything would need to be rescheduled.
So do you go with the nuclear-1919 option and cancel the season all together? Or cancel the regular season and just start the playoffs when the time comes? Do you move everything back? Do you resume normal play and just start next season in December, or perhaps shorten the offseason? Do you end the season now and award the Stanley Cup to the team with the most points as of Wednesday night (which would be the Boston Bruins, by the way). For now, it’s hard to say. We won’t know until the virus loosens its grip on the world, or if that happens anytime soon.
Outside of the medical community, the entertainment industry, sport included, is taking a massive hit. Entire music festivals are either postponed, moved or cancelled all together with billions needing to be refunded. Entire sports leagues are closing shop. And instead of the NCAA’s annual billion-dollar 64-team tournament spectacle — its bread and butter — we’re all watching a different kind of “march madness” this year.
The amount of money being lost is an accountant’s nightmare. To put in perspective at the NHL level, each team’s regular-season home game brings in roughly $1.5-3 million in revenue. On average, teams earn about $1.3 million in ticket revenue each night during the regular season. It’s probably close to double that in the playoffs. Those, obviously, would need to be refunded. It’s similar numbers across every sports league, almost all of which are postponing or cancelling play.
It feels like a large part of our life is missing. Sport is a unifying industry. Varying races, creeds, religions, genders come together to trade in their daily stresses of tedium and reality for a escape into fandom. And we’ve all lost that — at least for now.
In the age of modern medicine, many are questioning how this is possible. But the fact that this a reality — this is the new normal — should tell you everything about the severity of the concern. This is no joke.
On a superficial level, selfishly — and to put it bluntly — this sucks. There’s no way around that. We all want to watch our hockey games. But it’s important to remember one thing.
This is so much bigger than sport.
Money, hockey games, all of it can all be made up. Life can not. Arena workers, among so many others, are losing their jobs as a result, as a freelance journalists. Thousands are dying and entire demographics are at risk of being largely wiped out. The NHL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, etc. will all recover. Some others may not.
Take the time you would have spent on sport and use it to reach out to a loved one or an old friend. Take this time to be thankful for your health and the well-being of those around you. We’re all in this together. Life is short and phenomena like these remind us of that very fact. It’s also important to remember that everything will be OK. It may not feel like it now, but it will.
It’s a weird time in the world right now but humanity has a certain way of rallying and proving its mettle in times like these. Our sport and our beloved Avalanche will be back eventually. In the meantime, be good to one another. Take care of yourself and those around you. And, please — I cannot stress this enough — wash your hands.