Now Hear Me Out, Practice Rinks

With the idea of the NHL coming back around July or whatever and so many weird scenarios being thrown out there, the location(s) of the events are going to be crucial. Of course, the idea of a big, vacant arena is a trippy situation that’ll border on the absurd to open up the venue when getting no revenue out of it.

But what about practice facilities?? This is something Captain Chaos Jonny P thought of during the April 29th edition of Face Off Hockey Show.

Sure, there’s going to be some players weary of it because the training facilities aren’t going to be up to snuff with the exception of the main weight room area, but why not think about going to the practice rinks in order to play these games?? It seems like something that’ll won’t really cost that much in comparison to the actual giant arena.

There’s not going to be fans in attendance, thus not going to be need for much arena staff, outside of bare bones security; the big time presentation on ice isn’t needed– just speakers. A temporary set-up for the media could be put up if need be, because most practice rinks don’t have the control center for big money productions. The rinks are all the same in dimensions and really the only thing that may not be up to snuff could be the system that holds the nets on– but you’d hope that’s been addressed when they built the facility knowing that a NHL team would be doing their training there and you want the game-experience there to not really mess up a rhythm.

Looking at all angles, it only makes sense because it’ll be low overhead when you look at going practice rink versus the big arena. It’ll already be unique in the situation we’re in right now, so why not double and triple down on the situations, while saving a few bucks for not having to open the big stage when not making any income from it at all. Just a thought to save some kind of money– which could really help everyone in the end going forward.

Pushing Back The 2020-21 Season

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 12: A goal sits on the empty ice prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775376586 ORIG FILE ID: 1212022895

According to Pierre LeBrun, the start of the 2020-21 season will be in December; accounting for the idea that the NHL season will resume in July like some people are hypothesizing. LeBrun said that the league would hope to have a full 82-game slate for the squads, but is there a chance that isn’t feasible.

It’s hard for everyone right now being without entertainment as their cooped up in the house in this Schrodinger world we’re living in, but you also have to look out for common sense. Money is going to be lost by the NHL because the odds are good that no fans will be allowed for whatever’s left for the 2019-20 season. Yet, the biggest thing to look at is the idea that players will be very worn out from the summer hockey and then however short the offseason is for them and then right into the next season in December. The start and stop aspect probably isn’t the most ideal, especially when the goal is a 82-game affair and everything that would give breaks would be scrapped to get back on schedule for everyone.

Now, of course, there’s plenty of red-tape that the league will need to get through in order to go through with their plan of finishing the current season. The border of Canada and the US is closed, so teams there would need to figure out how the hell to get out and play if they indeed get this whole thing started up again. Then you have to hope the proper testing is in place because one setback could ruin the entire rest of 2019-20, despite what Bill Daly may have said. You also have to wonder how keen the players are to fit all those games in what looks like it could be an 11-month window.

As much as I miss live hockey, the idea that we need to push for it to come back in the most uncertain of times seems very short-sighted, the business aspect be damned. What’s gained by getting back on the ice sooner than needed?? What’s gained by further pushing the players’ bodies by keeping the schedule for next year the same, while giving them much less off-time for said schedule and taxing their bodies even more?? Is it worth rushing things for this season and then condensing next season in order to not lose as much money?? These are the questions that need to be asked when you look at the entire scope of things.

If the NHL is rushing back just to get back, then it could be a high-risk, high reward situation. If it pays off, they look like geniuses for getting back when they did and plotting out things to get back on track by the 2021-22 season. If it stumbles and turns out to be the worst thing to happen to hockey– they might not hear the end of it. I don’t envy those making these decisions, but they can’t make it in haste just because we’re all anxious and bored with no live sports.

Media Access, COVID-19, and You

We are all mind-numbingly aware of the COVID-19 virus (I’m only going to call it C-19 moving onward) and we know what it’s done to the social landscape of the world. Obviously, sports is put into this and has led to leagues shutting down their locker room access and even possibly playing in front of empty arenas (although the AHL already did that).

My opinion is good. While it’s probably an overreaction to what equates to a beefed-up pneumonia, you rather err on the side of caution rather than have to clean up the mess that comes from not taking the right moves in the first place. Playing catch-up is never fun, especially in a wide-spread illness.

But seeing media people hem and haul about the shutting down of locker rooms and access to players and give a vague threat to the leagues bascially saying, “This better be temporary,” makes me tilt my head. As someone who has pieces of laminated paper saying I’m part of the media, I’ve never once thought that locker room access is needed to have a good story. Hell, at the University of North Dakota games; all the interviews for the masses are done in a scrum style with two or three players and head coach Brad Berry. We all get our stories, we all move along. Brad Schlossman is one of the finest writers in hockey and he rarely gets the locker room access some of these reporters in sports get, but he’s still churning out bangers week after week.

Does that help with some stories and such?? Sure. Is it a necessity?? That’s a hard sell for me. Does it equate to better stories?? I’m sure it does. Ken Rosenthal thinks it does (subscription because innovation). To a point, it can be true because access and having a good standing with the players can lead to things down the line and becoming an insider. Also, the point that it’s making the media members look petty because they’re getting singled out and other groups aren’t.

But, when the Colorado Avalanche have a sign reminding media members not to hug players or sit at stalls seems more to me like writers are mad because they can’t be buddy-buddy with some players. There’s not many other entertainment industries that allow people to be as tight-knit as the sports community. It can be considered both awesome and invasive all in one.

If you’re a good reporter, you’ll find a way to get the story without having to make brunch plans with the top-line guys or deal with the stench of equipment by your nose when you sit down in one of their stalls. People’s story writing abilities aren’t tied to all-access approaches in locker room settings. Yes, it makes a story better…but there’s tons of people out there writing quality stuff without having a fraction of the access or really needing it– but they’re still getting respect from people who enjoy the content they put out– access or not.

If worst comes to worst– everyone is connected. If you have a good relationship with a player now and need access to the room without getting access to the room– you should have their number. Text them, call them, email them– if they’re really your buddy, they’ll find a way to make time for you either in-person or virtually. Does it tell the whole story you’re looking for?? No, because it doesn’t have those subtle nuances of a locker room…but it’s still better than no access at all.

And yet, the story the writers are really missing are the impact around the games. The fans who may have taken a vacation to see a game, but will have to wait because the game was shuddered down to fans. The impact this will have on local businesses on top of the impact of non-gameday happens with this panic. The workers inside the venues who are going to be losing money and might already be on a tight budget as it is.

But no, let’s talk about the locker rooms shutting down. Let’s talk about the lack of access being the reason some can’t create a good story. There’s stories to be had out there that don’t require direct player access. You just have to be good enough to find it.