8th March: Sunday Overtime – Three on Three

Welcome back to our once-upon-a-weekly hockey digest. Following holidays and other events, I’m hoping to resume weekly posting.

01. Outbreak

Remember when Sidney Crosby said he didn’t have the mumps but we all saw the picture and it turned out that he very much had the mumps? Why do I ask? Oh. No reason.

This is not going to be an exhaustive segment about COVID-19, the latest Coronavirus to wreak havoc but, rather, a rundown on how hockey has responded. The IIHF has cancelled a number of international competitions, with the Women’s World Championship, due to be held in eastern Canada, the latest cancellation. At the time of writing, the men’s equivalent competition has not been cancelled but, given the timeframe that COVID-19 has been operating on, thus far, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that it will be cancelled. (By and large, the virus affects a third of people in the first three weeks, and then most people by nine weeks, but anyone who’s been following epidemiological and public health predictions will appreciate that the longer that lead time is, the better chance our health services have to deal with it).

The NHL has also responded by advising that media members are not allowed into locker rooms.

As you can imagine, this has been met with equanimity and respect. Or not. It has been pointed out that young and healthy hockey players are in the lowest risk group. This is correct, of course. However, that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of transmitting the disease to those at risk, who are generally older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions. Remember: the advice and the restrictions being put in place are to slow down the spread of the virus, reducing the strain on healthcare resources and protecting the most vulnerable in our population.

The graph in the following embedded tweet explains it better than I ever could.

When the CDC advised sports leagues to restrict media access to locker rooms, what it was advising was social distancing, a proven way to slow down spread of this virus. It was not to spite hockey reporters or to undermine their ability to do their job. Some teams, including the Rangers, Islanders and Devils have already adopted the advice, while others have chosen not to. What is going to happen when the first case emerges in the NHL is anyone’s guess, but if self-isolation of close contacts for fourteen days is applied … well. We may be seeing some disruption to the hockey season.

It goes without saying that I am not a virologist or a public health doctor. All I can ask is that you, and our friends in the NHL, refer to the experts, whether that’s the CDC, the NHS or the HSE or (insert your own health system here).

Stay safe, folks, wash your hands, use good cough/sneeze hygiene and if you have to self-isolate, stay tuned for my future post on books to read to pass the time.

02. Downfall

Folks, what is happening with the Leafs? And I don’t even mean on the ice because that’s anybody’s guess.

Honestly, I don’t think the above tweet is particularly unique. There have been plenty of comments about Toronto media (and please note that I am not referring to the fanbase) in the years I’ve been watching hockey. It is known, even to this Irishwoman whose hockey experience revolves mostly around the Washington Capitals, that the Toronto media, and coverage of the Leafs, is rather more extra than most.

Now, I’m pretty fond of the Leafs and have been since the 2016-17 season, when those three young bucks, Marner, Matthews and Nylander, were full of potential and getting to the playoffs was a bonus. Since then, the media has pilloried Nylander (for ‘holding out’) and Marner (for being greedy). There have been think pieces as to whether John Tavares was the right choice for captain (the answer is yes of course he was, even if Morgan Reilly would also have been a perfectly cromulent choice, and certainly the right choice over a young man who thinks women’s fear is funny). And, of course, don’t get me started on the Leafs Report Cards after every single game, in the Athletic, in which Ian Tulloch seems to have entirely given up on analysing Tyson Barrie (honestly, if you can’t think of something to say about a player who’s eaten twenty-six minutes of ice time, it says more about you than it does about him).

The thing is, we are paying attention, James. Ultimately, there is a reason that Toronto hockey media has acquired the reputation it has, for over-fixating on and over-reacting to every moment in an inherently streaky and unpredictable sport.

Perhaps they’d be better served turning that focus on themselves for a little while.

03. Fly By

How about those Philadelphia Flyers, eh? They’ve won nine games in a row (including slaughtering the Washington Capitals twice during that streak, which we do not like). On Money Puck, they are currently Cup favourites.

How the Flyers have reached this point in the season has to be, in part, down to some relatively solid goaltending from Carter Hart and back-up Brian Elliott, as well as the fact that Couturier is back on form, and Travis Konecny is living up to his potential, with a career high in points and an attitude to go with it.

Of course, we all know that the real secret to the Flyers’ success is Twitter’s boyfriend, Kevin Hayes. Literally no one can have envisaged that he’d have lived up to his contract (7 x 7.14m) but between his penchant for short-handed goals and his obvious popularity both within the team and within the fanbase, it looks like he has found his forever home and we are here for it.

View this post on Instagram

New Bestie, who’s this?

A post shared by Kevin Hayes (@kphayes12) on

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