Given the recent pandemic, the people are starved for sports and Stars fans are no exception.
The NHL is discussing the possibility of continuing to play games in empty stadiums in North Dakota.
The league is actively considering all possibilities for continuing the season.
So, should the league play games without fans?
Argument For Fans
Playing playoff games where the atmosphere created by the fans is so incredibly important that playing games with so much on the line, in a way taints the experience. The play as well as the passion of the fans goes to another level in the playoffs and missing half the equation almost cheapens the product. Games without fans is not something the players would be necessary in favor of because many teams feed off that extra energy. Sure, players can adjust, but it certainly won’t feel like the playoffs without fans.
Toronto has locked down the city through June. This would make traveling difficult for the Leafs in particular, but additionally is a potential indication that this may not flatten out until at least July. The players are going to need at least 3 weeks to get back into skating form and be prepared for the playoffs. The chances of injury will significantly increase with any less time, not that player safety is ever at the top of the NHL’s priority list. Starting so late also is going to make next season incredibly difficult given the short layoff for some teams so special rules will have to be instituted to allow salary cap flexibility.
Finally, the NHL needs to be more realistic in their planning and the idea of trying to finish the regular season with playoffs is not plausible. The potential seeding and fringe playoff teams are going to be cheated no matter what the league does. If you do it based on points per game percentage, then the teams who fall out of a playoff spot will feel cheated. Teams who were just outside the playoffs will also be cheated because they don’t have the chance to get in the tournament. There are no winners and someone will feel cheated.
Arguments For No Fans
The most compelling argument for playing the games without fans is that people need something to give them hope. A return of sports gives the people a much-needed distraction and an escape from reality, as it has traditionally provided. Psychologically, the boost just the sight of seeing hockey games can ease the burden of being stuck at home. A feeling of return of some normalcy could be the boon to help everyone get through these hard times.
For the owners and for the sports industry as a whole, games being played means generating money and helping people stay employed. The sports industry is already a cutthroat business, especially if you are the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. Providing sports writers and media the ability to cover actual games would help save some jobs.
Additionally, the NHL will need people to help set up these games so it will help generate some employment while giving sports writers some ease.
The NHL has an important decision to make. All the different variables and unknowns surrounding the current reality, it is an important decision to make not just for the present, but for the future. If it can be done safely, it feels like the overwhelming consensus and persuasive argument is to play the games so fans can feel something normal again.
The safest way to play the games safely is to have every single player and staff member tested before each game to ensure no contamination occurs. The public backlash from such a practice though is a real, serious chance the league would be taking, however.
It might be best to forego the playoffs and season for the safety of everyone and to avoid public outrage.
Featured Image: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News