The New York Rangers and the NHL Face Hurdles If They Try to Return in July

New York Rangers

New York Ranger fans and hockey fans around the world received some positive news on Wednesday when reports surfaced that the NHL was looking toward a resumption of play. One of the scenarios being looked at is having an NHL team and city “host” games for multiple teams, similar to having a basketball regional like in the NCAA basketball tournament. Hopeful as this is, the NHL faces some hurdles in implementing this plan or any other during the summer months.

Ice Conditions may be problematic for the New York Rangers and other NHL players

As we detailed in an article back in March, maintaining proper ice conditions during summer months for most locations in the NHL will be very difficult. As far as the ice conditions, the NHL recommendation is for ambient air to be between 60 and 64 degrees at 40 to 44 percent humidity. Rink experts agree that it is possible for every NHL team to maintain suitable ice conditions in those warmer months. This will be an expensive venture, both in manpower and in air conditioning and maintenance costs. The experts feel that that the most important factor would be the diligence of the team ice crews, who will have to work harder and smarter than they ever have to make sure the ice surface is playable for games during the hottest days of the year. This is in part why Edmonton is being considered as a site due to it’s relatively lower warmer summer temperatures and humidity.

Can New York Rangers and other players be allowed to return on their Visas?

Two legal issues that must be addressed are player contracts and visa issues with players from other countries. Work Visa’s have specific dates which probably do not include the summer months. Also, player contracts expire on June 30. This may be an easier issue to deal with as contracts would need to be amended to allow for an extended league year through the summer. Experts feel that could be an even more difficult hurdle as compared to contract terms, which can likely be handled internally through the league and players’ association. However, it is widely thought that both the United States and Canadian government would be more than happy to help out with this issue, especially since it has been reported that if the league does not resume the 2019-20 season in a summer session, they will be facing losses of up to $1 billion.

Dr. Fauci suggests a summer return for sports

In an interview with Peter Hanby of Snapchat, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested a summer return for major sports. But, the return would have some restrictions.

“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled,” said Fauci. “Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”

There have been similar proposals, such as the MLB’s to play in Florida and Arizona, as well as the NBA’s proposal to play the remainder of the season and the postseason in Las Vegas. From what Fauci said, it seems as if players would get some access to their families as long as players stay relatively isolated.

Right now, the PGA Tour is the first sport to have a return set. They will return to the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11th. Racing events such as NASCAR may end up returning around the same time.

President Donald Trump has set up a committee focused on reopening the economy when safe. Most league commissioners will be giving input, as well as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

“I’m absolutely looking forward to trying to help,” said Cuban, also seen on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’.

The committee is rumored to begin preliminary meetings on Wednesday and will continue to have frequent meetings until further notice.

It’s great that sports are nearing a safe return, and that Dr. Fauci is in agreement.

“I’m living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals,” said Fauci. “I want to see them play again.”

 

Sports could be closer to returning than you think

Madison Square Garden

Believe it or not, sports could be closer to returning than you think.

Yesterday, Dr. Fauci delivered good news, saying that he believes that the coronavirus outbreak is slowing. He stated that by May, the economy should slowly be able to get going again, and social distancing restrictions could be relaxed to an extent.

In the sports world, this is fantastic news. Though it’s doubtful that it will be in front of fans, sports may be able to get going in May when the curve is even flatter. President Donald Trump and league commissioners agreed that games beginning again is a focus in restarting the economy. Trump and the commissioners were all on a conference call last weekend.

Right now, the MLB is trying to figure how the entirety of the season will be played, while the NBA and NHL are preparing for the playoffs. All games across the leagues may be played in only a few cities or states, for the safety of the players. Doing that would reduce travel risks.

What we may end up seeing before those core leagues return is a return to golf and racing. Both of those are non-contact sports that don’t need weeks of training before a season resumes. Most golfers have been practicing on their own, while drivers have been racing in simulators to stay sharp.

The core leagues are working with health officials to come up with realistic timelines and ideas to keep everyone safe while still providing entertainment and contributing to an economy that needs serious help right now.

I think that in a month from now, leagues will have definite plans to start up again, and we could see games and events soon after. At least for right now, we have the MLB The Show players league, NBA H-O-R-S-E competitions, and the NFL draft to look forward to.

Stay safe, and be patient. Sports will be back before we know it!

Survey shows that fans are unlikely to attend events until COVID-19 vaccine

Recently, Seton Hall University conducted a poll about how fans felt about attending sporting events after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The survey showed that 72% of fans would not attend games until after a vaccine is developed for coronavirus. 12% of those surveyed said that they would feel safe attending events with proper social distancing, and 13% said that they would feel just as safe as before the outbreak.

76% of fans surveyed said that they would watch games on television with no fans in the stands, and would still be interested. Unfortunately for NFL fans, 70% of those surveyed believe that the season should not start as planned.

76% of fans also think that leagues shut down at the right time, and 84% thought that the IOC made the right decision about this year’s Olympics in Japan.

This survey was completed by 762 Americans and has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percent.

While a lot of results are disappointing, they aren’t unexpected. With a disease so contagious, it’s hard to see how stadiums and arenas could be packed with thousands of fans, shoulder-to-shoulder. I believe that once coronavirus peaks, we can start to consider leagues restarting again but with restrictions. If it’s safe enough, I think that you could end up seeing a limited attendance. If it’s not quite as safe as we hope, we likely see no attendance.

But, I do think it will eventually be safe enough to play games again this year. Vaccines and therapy methods are being worked on, and people are continuing to social distance. It’s just a matter of whether we can attend or not.

President Trump Hopes To See Fans In Stadiums And Arenas “By August Or September”

empire sports media

Today, Adam Schefter (ESPN) reported that President Donald Trump was on a conference call with commissioners and top executives of major United States professional sports. The call included NFL commissioner Roger Goddell, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and others representing leagues such as the PGA Tour, NHL, WNBA, etc.

On the call, Trump said that he hopes that fans will be able to attend events again by August or September. He also said that he believes that the NFL will be ready to start on time with no restrictions.

While it wasn’t unexpected, this is a massive blow for major sports. The news pushes the start of the MLB and WNBA seasons way back, halts all PGA and LPGA Tour events for a long time, as well as racing events. For the NBA and the NHL, this makes it less likely that the season will be finished.

It will probably be safe enough for teams to start playing each other before then, but it may only be a few weeks before. If it is as late as July or August, I have a hard time seeing the NHL and NBA return. All the rest of the leagues, with exception to the NFL, will have to play significantly shortened schedules.

This is still a rapidly changing and fluid situation. Each league has new ideas on how to get play going sooner, but all end up being put aside in the end. We may not know more about the resumption of leagues until the amount of COVID-19 cases peak, and we start to see a downward trend.

But for now, continue to social distance and wash your hands. Do your part and hope others do theirs. That way, we can get back to a normal way of life soon.

Stay safe, ESM nation!

The New York Rangers and the NHL Respond to the K’Andre Miller Incident

New York Rangers

On Friday, the New York Rangers hosted a zoom chat for the first 500 people who could get on Zoom with newly signed defenseman K’Andre Miller. The chat turned ugly when a person decided to use a racial slur repeatedly toward Miller. The twenty-year-old was selected with the 22nd pick of the 2018 NHL Draft and many expect him to make it to the Rangers shortly. An excellent skater, Miller has featured for the United States at the past two World Junior Championships and just finished his junior season at the University of Wisconsin.

The New York Rangers were slow to react to the racial slurs

A Zoom user used the chat function to repeatedly direct a racial slur targeted at Miller. It is not clear whether it was one of the 500 people who participated or was someone who hacked their way into the chat. Zoom has had issues with security over the past few weeks as video chatting has become more popular during the COVID-19 outbreak. Hackers gain access to a Zoom meeting and attempt to disrupt the video chat and upset participants by shouting profanity or racial slurs or putting offensive images in the video feed. Zoom hacking issues like this are happening all over the world, from over-the-Internet Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to sensitive, high-level government gatherings.

Regardless of the Zoom issue, the New York Rangers created the event. Their reaction to this situation was a bit timid and slow. It took them more than three hours after the incident to post this statement:

“We held an online video chat with fans, and New York Rangers prospect, K’Andre Miller, during which a vile individual hijacked the chat to post racial slurs, which we disabled as soon as possible. We were incredibly appalled by the behavior, which has no place online, on the ice, or anywhere, and we are investigating the matter.”

Shortly after, the NHL posted this statement:

“The National Hockey League is appalled that a video call arranged today by the New York Rangers to introduce their fans to one of the League’s rising stars, K’Andre Miller, was hacked with racist, cowardly taunts. The person who committed this despicable act is in no way an NHL fan and is not welcome in the hockey community.  No one needs to be subjected to such ugly treatment and it will not be tolerated in our league. We join the New York Rangers in condemning this disgusting behavior.”

You can see a video of the incident on our Fireside Rangers twitter feed.

This just one of the incidents where the league needs to take a firmer stance to protect its players from this type of situation, even if the fault remains with the Zoom website. Racism has no place in hockey or anywhere, and this incident should expect a diligent response from the New York Rangers, the NHL, and any law enforcement division that this applies to.

The New York Rangers, NHL, should follow the NBA’s ideas

New York Rangers

If the NHL and the New York Rangers want to return to action, they may want to look at some of the ideas that the NBA is floating. As COVID-19 lingers, it is becoming apparent that the bigger metro areas may not be able to stage sporting events, even if fans are not permitted. For example, the city of Toronto on Tuesday banned all “city-led and permitted” events through June 30. A spokesman for Mayor John Tory later told reporters that the ban does not apply to sports events, but the province of Ontario has “banned organized public events and social gatherings of more than (five) people.” This is just one example of the difficulty that all professional sports organizations are facing as they try to resume or start their seasons.

What the NHL and the New York Rangers can learn from the NBA

Recent reports have stated that the NBA is considering clustering teams to play games in locations such as the Bahamas and Las Vegas. While of course, that won’t work too well for the NBA, the NHL can consider the same idea in locations that can provide rinks and facilities to handle clusters of teams. Single city locations and a cluster of a few cities allow leagues some flexibility. Holding all games in a single city, or a small group of cities allows the leagues to play within the confines of quarantine and eliminates the need for travel and the hurdles that come with the need to comply with different cities’ restrictions and regulations when it comes to the necessary pandemic response. Recent reports have the NBA looking toward a single city option, using Las Vegas and casino hotels as a way to house players and employees.  But of course, putting down a basketball court is much easier than creating ice hockey rinks. One of the ideas that the NBA has considered could work well for the NHL.  The NBA had considered “taking over” some college campuses in the Midwest, where reported cases of COVID-19 are lower for the moment. This could work for the NHL as states such as North Dakota and South Dakota do not have severe “stay-at-home” restrictions like other parts of the country have. These states also have nice size colleges and hockey facilities that could host one or more clusters of teams to play.

Hopefully, all leagues, including the NHL, will leave no stone unturned in an attempt to safely resume seasons and help us get back to some sort of normalcy.

The New York Rangers 2020 NHL Entry Draft Will Be a Little Different

Brady Skjei, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers may end up doing what millions of fantasy sports participants do every year: draft online. That’s right, you could see John Davidson, David Quinn, and other Ranger officials sitting in front of a big screen, time clock ticking away in the corner, as the look through the list of players available. Then they make their selection and press enter, and the New York Rangers have made their pick. Sound far-fetched? It might not be as the NHL canceled some events, including the live 2020 Entry Draft.

Covid-19 Forces the NHL to cancel events

Recently, the NHL announced it has postponed the 2020 NHL Draft Combine, the NHL Awards Show and the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The Draft Combine was scheduled to take place on June 1-6 in Buffalo, NY as it always does. The Awards show was to be held in Las Vegas, NV on June 18 and the draft would’ve been June 26-27 in Montreal. Not surprising because in a best-case scenario, the Rangers and/or other NHL teams will be playing games during this time. But in postponing this live, planned event, the NHL will have to look at other ways to have teams, select players.

This is from the official press release: The location, timing and format of the 2020 NHL Draft (and Draft Lottery) will be announced when details are finalized. 

The New York Rangers may be drafting “online”.

Overall, this has possibilities. Whether it may be to help with the continuing practice of social distancing or to facilitate a draft that has to be planned in a short period of time, drafting online has some merits. It could also be quite interesting to watch this kind of draft. Imagine following along on the television or on a computer. You might get to see the same screen that the teams are using. Maybe there is a little trash talking going on between teams in the little chat box that is featured in most fantasy draft formats.

Something to ponder while we do some mock MLB drafts while practicing social distancing for a little while longer.

Where Do the Islanders Stand with Mathew Barzal?

New York Islanders, Mat Barzal

As the coronavirus shutdown continues for all sports, there isn’t much to talk about currently. For the NHL and the New York Islanders, it’s mostly about waiting for word to come down as to when they can return to play. But there might also be another thing worth discussing — Mathew Barzal.

Before the season was suspended last Thursday, the 22-year-old had just eclipsed the 60-point plateau for the third straight season. He was, once again, the leading point scorer for the Isles as they battled for a playoff spot. And he’d just come off another solid performance in his team’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Canucks in his native British Columbia.

The two-time All-Star has been carrying the Islanders since the break and pretty much all season. Which poses the question, if the season is canceled, where does the franchise see itself with Barzal?

Obviously, he’s the face of the franchise and their most valuable player. It’s been that way since former captain John Tavares left for Toronto two summers ago. While all the hoopla has always been about getting help around Barzal, there were more than a few instances this season where a lack of leadership and maturity has overshadowed his skill and insane hockey sense. The late-game moment 3-2 OT win in Buffalo back in December, the benching during the third period against the Rangers before the All-Star break in late January, and most recently his infractions in the Ottawa game and in Vancouver, are all examples of where the organization needs him to grow his game.

“You’ve got to stay in the moment,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Barzal after his bad decision nearly derailed all the Isles’ momentum in the game last Tuesday. “It’s all a part of the learning process and something you have to fight through.”

Look, this isn’t an article to rip him, but it’s clear that even though Anders Lee might wear the “C” on his jersey, Barzal turning into a leader is just as crucial for this organization to be successful. He is an RFA heading into this summer with his rookie deal expiring, and there’s no doubt he’s going to be paid by g.m. Lou Lamoriello, despite the rumblings of possible offer sheets and contract disputes.

Barzal has shown the qualities a team would want in a leader — fiery, competitive, resilient — to a certain extent. Still, he needs to prove even more that he’s going to be “the guy” moving forward.

What that means is showing more consistency.

Before his second period tally in Ottawa last week, Barzal had just three goals in his past 31 games. Those types of slumps are brutal, especially after he had started this year off red hot before cooling down. And many will say it’s because he doesn’t have the top players around him, but Barzal has the type of ability to transform the guys around him in vice versa.

The Islanders would also benefit well in the future if Barzal played a more straightforward game. I know, I know, he’s the only one who can drive anything offensively. But watch at times this year, that type of individual play has resulted in an abundance of turnovers and self-inflicting mistakes that have altered games.

We’ve already mentioned his maturity, but just to add to that, Barzal just needs to be aware of situations to engage and to stay away from. At 22, it’s easy to be a hothead. Then again, when a team depends so much on you, there has to be a middle ground. That comes with growing your game and showing accountability in oneself. By going this route, Barzal would not only be seen as a different player among his teammates but also the referees.

There’s no doubt the Islanders are building around Barzal as the centerpiece of their future. He being that key piece also means taking steps to become the star everyone believes he’s capable of being.

The Isles might not know what the future holds, but they know where they stand with Mathew Barzal. It’s an evolving place, one that looks different the next time they step on to the ice.