Earlier today, the National Hockey League announced that the 2019-20 regular season is paused. With the continuing spread of the Coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19) pandemic and the news that a National Basketball Association player tested positive for the virus (some NHL and NBA teams share arenas), the NHL and the Players Association have suspended the season until further notice. The NHL’s statement makes it clear that this is a temporary suspension. This not only includes games but all team related activities like practices and meetings.
As the global pandemic has grown in days, massive decisions around the world have been made in the world of sport. Prior to the NHL’s announcement, tournaments like the Women’s World Championships were cancelled; the Frozen Four went from playing in front of no one except media, essential staff and family members to outright cancelled; and several European leagues announced suspensions, cancellations, and fans being barred from attending.
A few hours later, the American Hockey League also announced that they were suspending their season until further notice. The ECHL has also followed suit and the Canadian Hockey League - which governs the three major juniors leagues in Canada - has done the same. Internationally, the World Under-18 Championships were also cancelled earlier today and the fate of the Men’s World Championships is not yet known. All around the world, professional and youth hockey leagues are either on hold or done for 2019-20.
The Prudential Center released their own statement about two hours ago. It does include that New Jersey Devils supports the NHL’s decision. The big news here is that all events schedule for the Prudential Center in March has also been postponed. Obviously, this includes the Devils’ games but also concerts, shows, and All Elite Wrestling’s Prudential Center debut. The Rock is effectively closed off for this month. According to this Chris Ryan article at NJ.com, Josh Harris states that they will assist arena employees during this shut down period.
While the situation is fluid, it is clear that the main goal for the Devils and the NHL is to play the remainder of this season at some point in the future. I am a Devils season ticket holder and I have received an email about my tickets, which states the following:
Until we have certainty and direction from the league, your tickets to the postponed games will remain valid for the future scheduled makeup dates, if they should be scheduled. In the event you have previously transferred, resold, or utilized the Devils Buy-Back Program for these games, those tickets will remain valid for the current ticket holder for the scheduled makeup dates.
In the event you cannot attend rescheduled games, as a Devils Full Season Ticket Member, you can utilize the Devils Buy-Back Program for these games and have the total value of the postponed games applied as a credit toward your 2020-21 Devils Black & Red Membership renewal or swap your tickets to the postponed games to games during the 2020-21 Devils regular season.
I can at least appreciate that my tickets for tonight’s game and the six other home games scheduled after tonight will be honored. I appreciate even more from the organization that there is an intent to play these games at some point. I do not know if this applies to single-game tickets bought directly for the team. Or what happens with secondary-market bought tickets. I would recommend calling whoever sold them or checking if they sent you a message about what can be done.
Of course, who can be confident about the future? As The Likely Worst thing to Ever Come Out of Wuhan, China continues to spread around the globe, there is no real indication about when players, teams, and leagues can resume. Will it be better in a month? Will it be better in two months? At what point does the NHL consider making other changes to events on their schedule? At what point do they have to decide upon cancelling games, truncating the playoffs, pushing the NHL Draft back, delaying the first day of free agency, and other events? I do not envy anyone who has to make these decisions as it ties to their livelihoods.
The NHL’s spot has been rather difficult as both the owners and the union have skin in the game. Considering that the salary cap is linked to hockey-related revenue, it is in the best interest for the teams and the players to eventually play games in front of paying audiences. An empty arena would get a game played but it would not really help the spread that much if a player, staff member, or official gets infected and they go play a game. And an empty arena hurts revenue - which hurts the owners in the short term and the players in the near future. I agree that putting 2019-20 on pause is likely the best option.
As a fan, as a blogger, and as someone in New Jersey, I would be lying if I did not write that I was at least a little disappointed that there is no game against Carolina tonight. Games are something to look forward to, even if the Devils have nothing to play for, they are still exciting and fun events. While New Jersey had no shot of playing beyond April 4 in their original schedule, the majority of the Devils’ remaining 13 games were against opponents who absolutely had something to play for. The Devils really were a spoiler role. It was a role of sorts. Instead, these 13 games will have to wait until later. As great a hockey game is live, it is not worth catching a virus that is very contagious and is threatening to groups of people who are threatened by such things. Therefore, I do understand that suspending the season was the right decision as the pandemic continues.
I do hope it will not be long before the NHL and the Devils resume the season. If only because it will mean that it is safe again to go out and be in public to enjoy something. When that will be safe again is unknown.
In the Meantime, This Blog Is Not Paused
In the meantime, we at All About the Jersey will continue onward. Since there is an intention that the season will resume, we cannot write much about how the Devils’ season as a whole went. Since there will be about an eighth of the season remaining for everyone, we cannot take a big look into free agency since some players may help themselves in their contract year, some may not help themselves, and who even knows what the salary cap will be - or even when free agency will begin should the NHL be on hiatus for months. With other leagues cancelled or suspended, there is not much other hockey to cover. Binghamton’s awesome winning streak is on hold at seven games. Most of the team’s prospects are idle as with their leagues. We could jump into 2020 prospects earlier than usual and update them later on. And, of course, we can provide musings about the team’s history, go deeper into a player’s performance or an aspect of the team, or something else that strikes us. The general plan is that we will continue to have posts. Garden State of Hockey episodes will be recorded. All About the Jersey will not be paused.
What I would like are your suggestions for what you, as one of the People Who Matter, would like to see on this Devils blog in coming weeks. Perhaps there is a topic you would like one of us to explore. Perhaps there is a part of the team you would like our take on. Perhaps you just want us to go hog wild about 2020 prospects now until the NHL hopefully resumes in the future. I cannot guarantee that your ideas or suggestions will be taken about what Devils-related or hockey-related content you would like to see on this Devils blog. However, I will read them all and those that we do take, we will credit. I can understand if you check out until the NHL starts back up. I do not blame you. But as one of the People Who Matter, I want to know you would prefer to see as we wait for games to resume later this year.
Thank you for reading. Please be safe out there.