Is hockey worth it?

Yesterday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled the league’s plan to return
to play in an expanded playoff format signed off on by the league owners and the
NHLPA. While this might seem like something we all want, and maybe “need” in some strange
sense of the word, I felt compelled to step out of my self-imposed exile from hockey blogging
(and I’m not sure this post won’t reemphasize that I should return to my Fortress of Solitude) to
say this: it’s just not worth it.

I don’t know how else to put this, how to describe the massive self-inflicted wound our country
has experienced, because the idea of 100,000 people dead in such a short period of time is quite
literally incomprehensible to me. I’m not sure I know what 100,000 grave sites look like, or how
I’d be able to fit them all into view without climbing a mountain or flying in an airplane. I’m not
sure what 100,000 funerals feels like, or 100,000 shattered families’ futures whose lives will go
on without their loved ones might be like. All I can say is that it is too far too large a number, an
unnecessarily large number –South Korea and the United States reported their first cases on the
same day, and that country, roughly 20% of whose population lives in the sprawling Metropolis
of Seoul, has experienced around 300 deaths– and a number I wish painfully would simply stop
where it is. One more death is one too many, and one more death due to something so trivial as
hockey is an obscenity.

I say this all from my lonely desk at home, missing hockey more than anything. I miss the roar of
the crowd, the absolute rush of seeing my favorite players streak down the ice and dance their
way in for a stunner of a goal. I miss everything about it, the smell even of the Garden, the pre-
game rituals, having something to talk about with my friends, something scheduled every other
night to keep me occupied and structure my days – quite literally everything.

More than anything though I miss the people. My dad and I have been sitting in the same section
up in the Blue Seats my entire life (he’s been sitting in that same section since well before I was
born), and the kindness and warmth of the community up there is what brightens my days the
most. The great friends who sit in front of me, the guys at the top of the aisle who yell “WAIT
FOR THE WHISTLE,” the banter back and forth on a big night against a mainstay rival

All of this, the absence of it, has left a crater in my heart that an ocean couldn’t fill. I
lay in bed every night depressed and anxious, fixating on the unending tragedy we’re currently
situated in. I can’t even anticipate what my life might be like after this is all over, finishing law
school and attempting to build some semblance of a “real” adult life. Most days I don’t leave the
house, the only people I see in person are my parents, and I only occasionally speak to my
closest friends, because we’re all experiencing the same crippling moment. I need hockey, so
badly, that it hurts.

I don’t though, really. What I need is my health and safety. What I need is for the people I love
the most to make it through this unscathed, whether that means becoming afflicted with this
horrible plague themselves, or experiencing the devastating loss of having a loved one ripped
from their lives. Those people, the ones I think of when I just can’t sleep, the ones whose voices
and mannerisms and visages who I miss the most, include the people in who sit up in the Blue
Seats, the people on this website, my friends on social media, and everyone who packs the
Garden and the bars and their couches, all devoted to the same thing. I don’t want anyone to go
on losing anyone else, but when I think about what gives my life meaning,

I think most about hockey. I want it to come back, I really do. But I want it to come back whole, without a single person missing. I know, just as a matter of statistics, that we have already lost too many to this horrible disease, and that when I return to my section somebody, likely more than just one somebody, won’t be there ever again. So as we sit stuck in our houses, coping in our own ways
with different levels of stress, tragedy, hopelessness, or whatever we may be going through, I
think it’s important to ask ourselves too if a player’s life, or a coach’s life, or anyone’s life is
worth throwing away as surely will come to pass if hockey returns. I know my answer.

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  • I have also been pining for hockey’s return, but the risk to the health of the players and team personnel concerns me. Also, a hockey game played at an empty arena just seems wrong. Especially when it is a playoff game which are usually so raucous the building seems to shake.

  • The question isn’t is hockey worth it, the question is whether this country is ready for a new normal? We need small business to survive, we need sports to continue and we need the American way of life (freedom and socially intelligent) to come back. For a few months we have been held hostage by a disease. Yes, it is time to resume a life, albeit more cautious. We cannot and should not continue to be imprisoned by this any longer.

  • This Covid situation is very sad and unfortunate. And being you’re in NYC I can imagine it’s far worse, considering the impact it has had on the city. I live between Southern California and Arizona. Thankfully these areas have been largely sparred. Life is getting back to normal, somewhat. I even went out to dinner the other night. And I can say at some point life needs to restart. Is it now or later? Everyone’s preference will be different. And that’s fine. But hockey will restart. Life will go back to normal, whatever that may be. I actually have mixed feelings about restarting. 1. Safety of the players. 2. Is it just too late, and does it really make sense considering it will also effect next season. As for the people that died from Covid, do we mourn them or do we honor them by not letting this virus ruin everything we have as a society? Maybe we do a bit of both. Many someone’s and something’s need to lead us out of this malaise. And if the NHL wants to participate in the recovery process I feel ok with that.

  • We can’t turtle forever. At some point we need to face the situation head on and with intelligence. Now that the world has lived with this virus for 4-5+ months there’s a base of knowledge that has developed. Use it and plan accordingly —- testing, masks, gloves, distancing, sanitizer … but don’t drink bleach or shove a light up your …

    Life is a balancing act of risk and safety, approach the situation with great care and intelligence, err on the side of caution and safety, but don’t stop living. If you’re in an at risk group or dealing with people that are, exercise even more caution.

    Is hockey, or any sport/entertainment necessary? No, but we’re not going to see sports played tomorrow — they are merely planning today for later, well after the rest of society has attempted to move on and gotten back to work. I’m sure if the situation deteriorates in the next couple of months they’ll abandon these plans.

  • Wow, what a depressing piece. First, let us establish that people we all know will die every day of various causes. Then we accept that adults make choices every day. Our enlisted men join up knowing full well they may die in battle,yet they do. If hockey players know the risks to themselves,then it is not our pervue to decide.
    The overriding issue is can they affect others. From what I heard there will be a total of 50 personnel who will be isolated from even family members. They will be constantly checked. So if all stick to the formula(and I know that people cheat), I believe that if the union agrees,let The games begin.

  • Pat – I don’t think your viewpoint frames the issue correctly, at least for me. If a life was not worth resuming normal activities one should never get in a car given the 50K or so people that die every year in car accidents. Moreover, there are significant ramifications from a shutdown – increased domestic abuse, drug use, alcoholism, depression, suicide, loss of livelihood, etc. This virus may be with us for years if a vaccine is not discovered. Time to take reasonable precautions and return to normal life to the extent possible.

    Let’s Go Rangers!

  • Pat wrote a one-sided, depressing article. He/she wants to take that side of the argument. I propose that this position is quite extreme. The article may want to provide a point of view, or stir controversy. I feel it is not a NY Ranger article but a socio-economic point of view piece.

  • So don’t watch hockey when it returns.

    Wait until more people die because we don’t face the situation head on.

    Talk about those facts, don’t just one side the issue, let’s not do anything that could cause one person to die, really?

    Last time I checked hundreds upon thousands haven’t died in random ways during these times, does that mean we stay inside too.

    The issue has always been do EVERYTHING not overwhelm the healthcare system, the issue is not to save everyone.

    it’s just not, sorry but theres a real truth in the horrible effects of staying away from life at this point.

    People need to man up, get back on the horse, but be smart about it.

    and The NHL players will be much more safe than we are going out into this new world until we can get the meds to combat this virus.


  • I get it. As fans, we naturally want to see hockey played. So much so that we are even willing to accept a decidedly weird game with no spectators and a truncated playoff format.

    I also think that most of us agree that we need to start trying to get back to normal to the extent possible while taking reasonable precautions to avoid infecting ourselves and others.

    Unfortunately, here in Georgia I have been witness to many folks taking no precautions at all, and even seen a couple of dunces making fun of people wearing masks. So, while most of us are reasonable, some folks are dunderheads. I worry about the NHL because they haven’t always been protective enough of the well-being of their players, and the players union is weak. Finally, I don’t want to see next season affected by what the league does now to salvage some playoffs

    Be that as it may, sure, lets have hockey, but please NHL, do it sanely.

    • I am of the opinion that the NHL will be VERY careful and will test players, coaches and trainers 2-4x a week. Sure there will be positive results, but that will also occur around the corner from where you live.

    • Apples and oranges in terms of the NHL history with safety issues. You’re talking about how the NHL handled the risks of the GAME itself, not how they handle an external threat. This is akin to how did the NHL handle security after 9/11, not how they handle in game concussions, fights, dangerous checking, etc.

      • Maybe Tanto you might be right. But it might be a little more similar to their concussion protocols than you say. Their failures there have been egregious, so it is why I have a bit of reasonable skepticism regarding their commitment to player health.

        • Maybe. lol I think the old school Hockey people saw concussions as just part of the game and not that big of a deal, you play through it — same for football. A pandemic on the other hand that’s actually killing people might strike even the old-timers as more serious.

  • A well written, well though out post, Pat. Unfortunately, at some point, we will need to adjust to a new normal, as the risk of the coronavirus will never be zero (at least not unless a vaccine is created and almost everyone in the country receives it, which would take years). I am curious, at what point would you say that risk is low enough to proceed with play? Would you suspend professional hockey permanently?

  • Does the poster know that hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from various causes. Cancel everything!!

    • 100,000 Americans don’t die in a mere 3 months from a highly communicable virus for which there is no vaccine every year. Get real.

      We don’t need to ‘cancel everything’. But we do need to proceed with due caution.

  • Before the entire country goes dumb and numb over Covid, perhaps we should examine that in the US alone, the average number of deaths from the FLU is over 40,000 and in some years it’s as high as 60,000 per year! This in addition to people killed in auto accidents, etc.

    Get real people… life = risk!

    We leave our house and can get killed while driving, can choke on a shrimp, can end up in a cancer ward, or even have our entire system shut down and face the cruelty of MS.

    Not to mentioned get killed by random gunfire.

    That’s why life is so very precious – it’s the uncertainty.

    Let’s move on with life, businesses and our customs (like sports) that make our lives better and more enjoyable – if only for a few hours of entertainment.

    Hockey binds families, brings people together, brings us the joys of winning and the pains of life long fans rooting in vain.

    Unlike the other sports that are squabbling over who gets how much, our sport has come together … let’s celebrate that NOW, cause we DONT know what tomorrow brings.

    God bless America! Canada and the NHL !

  • Thanks, Pat. I wrestle with the same feeling. The risk is not akin to driving a car or signing up for military service. If I get in a car crash-other people don’t get injuries by being in contact with me. I can’t get in a car crash, not know it and then give a family member a broken neck. Covid is a highly infectious disease.

    Scary times. When it is safe to get back to normal, let’s go–post-haste. I don’t want to rush back because I am bored and then another 100,000 people are dead in a matter of months.

    This is a complicated issue that stirs up a lot of emotion. I just hope all of you and your families are healthy and safe and that hockey is back the second it makes sense.

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