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Tag: Coronavirus

Return To Ice Not The Same As Return To Court

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NBA has made waves this week with reports indicating that the league will re-open practice facilities where local restrictions are eased on Friday (May 1st).

UPDATE (4/27/20 12:54 PM) – The NBA has confirmed they are planning on reopening facilities on May 8th.

With the NHL having shut down just one day later than the NBA and having experienced a far lower percentage of COVID-19 cases among players and staff, it’s reasonable to believe hockey should follow close behind basketball.

However, there’s a major hurdle standing in the way of the NHL that the NBA does not have to deal with. That’s ice.

Just about every NBA player has had access to a basketball hoop during the pause and all of them have had access to flat ground. An incredibly limited number of hockey players have had access to ice. Meaning no ice-skating, no puck handling on ice, no shooting on ice, no actual training for ice hockey.

Sure, many players are using their sticks to juggle rolls of toilet paper, and they are probably even using them to practice handling pucks too, but there’s nothing on land that can replicate playing hockey on ice (yes, I’m aware of the plastic ice sheets that exist, but it’s not the same and very few if any players have access to those at home).

And even more important than the actual skills involved in playing hockey is simply the conditioning that goes along with it. Players usually spend about a month or so off the ice in the offseason but gradually work their way back up to participating in training camp before playing meaningless preseason games and eventually regular season games.

When the NHL season resumes, there will be a training camp, but players will be expected to go from a dead stop to playoff speed and intensity in about six weeks.

Aside from the potential injury effects, there’s a fairness aspect that has to be considered by the league. If a few teams are able to get on the ice in May, while others have to wait until June or July, the early teams will have a massive advantage.

This is going to serve as a significant obstacle to the league’s return to play. They have little choice but to open all facilities to all players at the same time. Amid the pandemic, that’s certainly seeming unlikely in many states (see California and New York to name a few).

The Golden Knights are in a state that currently appears ready to be gearing up to re-open, which likely could include the unlocking of the doors at City National Arena very soon. However, even if the Governor allows it, the league shouldn’t until every team has the same access to ice.

It’s going to be frustrating if/when it happens. Other leagues will begin opening up for training while the NHL must sit and wait for the sake of fairness. And it’s going to be especially frustrating in states like Nevada where the rest of the businesses are back in action while the one we all really want to open back up remains on hold due to the virus’ grip on other parts of the country.

That’s just part of life in a sport played on an unnatural surface. The league should do the right thing and open back up fairly. Otherwise, Drew Doughty might end up being right after all.

Do Players Care If The Media Are Around Or Not?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For decades, locker rooms have been a common area for players and media to gather after games and after practices. It’s an interesting dynamic, as credentialed men and women get to bombard athletes with positive or negative questions about the outcome of the game. It’s regulated by the club and the league, however it’s mostly a free-for-all and the millionaire players have to suck it up. Or else they get reprimanded and/or look terrible in the public eye.

That was pre-NHL pause.

With health concerns of groups larger than ten, it would be impossible to allow that process to continue. Heck, at this point in time there are too many players for one locker room. So, while there’s uncertainty among the media and players, we all understand things could drastically change.

I don’t think they should be… It’s just intrusive. I would co-sign the idea that we shouldn’t eliminate all access. -JJ Redick, NBA Forward

NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick on The Ringer podcast last week discussed the NBA freeze. The conversation transitioned to the relationship between players and the media, and how Redick would like more restrictions once play resumes.

Redick’s gripe sounds a bit NBA’ish. There are fewer players on a team, and more media covering basketball. Plus, the NBA allows media lockerroom access before game, which doesn’t exist in the NHL. However, there are elements to his complaints that every player in any league would agree with.

Camera guys are in the lockerroom during the media availability and they’re filming you while you are getting dressed… Why are you filming me when I’m putting my tights on? Why do you need to know how I tie my shoes? That feels a little weird too me. -Redick

I often wondered if Golden Knights players were overwhelmed or annoyed dealing with the media every day. Let’s face it, many of us couldn’t compose ourselves as well as they do after a bad loss. Over the past few years, I’ve asked players how they felt about their media responsibilities and came away with different responses.

Since all of these questions were off the record, I won’t reveal the players’ names but they all had a common theme. The bottom line, the Golden Knights know it’s part of their jobs, and they recognize it’s a way to connect with fans. One player said he enjoyed it and had fun chatting it up with the media. Another player told me he’s so used to it that it’s part of his routine. A third player explained, it wasn’t often he spoke in postgame scrums, so when he did it usually meant his contributions helped the team win.

As expected, their moods change after a loss. Most players don’t look forward to the media rush after dropping two points, but again, they understand their role. If an individual player missed an open shot, turned the puck over, or gave up the game-winning goal those players will likely answer the bell. One player hinted if they are good enough to make millions of dollars playing the sport, they can handle the heat after a loss.

A player that caused his team to lose would rather take the needling questions from the media then have his teammate do it for him. Also, certain players don’t want to be known only for answering questions after a win, and ducking out after a loss. It’s bad for their image, and some feel like they’re letting down the fans. Again, these are proud, honest NHL players we’re dealing with, not other professional athletes.

The overall feeling I got after a few casual conversations was that Vegas players want a genuine working relationship with the media. As long as it’s respectful, players don’t mind giving 5-8 minutes of their time after a win or loss. However the NHL decides to regulate the flow of media it will be completely foreign for both parties. One thing is for sure, the players will adjust quicker. Realistically, they are players and would rather focus on playing hockey. They won’t mind the change because there’s a good chance they get their locker room back and get to keep it for themselves.

It’s up to us at SinBin.vegas to work within the forthcoming new accessibility rules to bring information and content fans expect. If not, you all have full access to harass Ken and I. We can handle the heat.

Poll: 70% Will Attend Golden Knights Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last week Seton Hall University conducted a poll asking fans their level of concern attending a sporting event after the threat of COVID-19 is gone. The Stillman School of Business canvassed what fans would do if the leagues resumed play before there was a coronavirus vaccine? The results were lopsided.

72% of those who responded to the poll said they would not feel safe attending games until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is developed.

Asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before there was a vaccine, 12 percent said in the poll released on Thursday that they would attend but only if social distancing could be maintained.

Only 13 percent said they would feel safe. The poll run by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business was conducted over April 6-8 with 762 respondents. -Steve Keating, Reuters

The university polled under 800 sports fans who overwhelmingly showed hesitation about returning to a venue without a successful vaccine. Something, we’re all concerned with. However, the numbers seemed broad, and possibly too regional. Seton Hall is in New Jersey, a state devastated by the coronavirus, and the poll participants were mostly sports enthusiasts from the NY/NJ area.

So, we decided to get a little more precise and ask a similar question to Golden Knights fans. The results were optimistically different.

With over 2300 votes, the SinBin.vegas poll found a much different response than the one conducted back East. Surprisingly, 48% clicked they would feel safe returning to a Golden Knights game after the league resumed and 70% said they would be willing to attend a game. Compared to the 13% of respondents from the Seton Hall poll.

Locally, Vegas residents are proactively isolating and keeping their distance as the governor told us to. However, many believe this is only temporary and the poll positively reflects that.

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Golden Knights Continuing To Step Up For Community

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It seems like every day either the organization or a player is announcing a new program or donation to support the Vegas community during these trying times. So much so that it’s hard to keep up.

So we wanted to take a moment to highlight each and every one of them and we’ll make sure to keep this article updated with any new initiatives or donations that are made in the future.

$1,000,000 to the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force

The Creator and Vegas Golden Knights Foundation have donated $1 million to the task force set up by Governor Sisolak and headed by former MGM CEO Jim Murren.

The money will be used to purchase necessary supplies, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including surgical masks, N95-equivalent CDC-approved respirator masks, medical gloves, and medical gowns.

Support VGK part-time employees for all games missed

Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK players, and The Creator have committed a minimum of $500,000 to pay T-Mobile Arena employees for any games that are canceled.

This includes third-party vendors, service providers, food and beverage employees, retail associates, medical staff, event personnel, production and cleaning operations. Also the entire VGK Cast and Crew – including in-arena hosts, PA announcer, Vegas Vivas!, Golden Belles, Knights Guard, Knight Line, the dj, The Golden Knight, music director, camera operators, control room crew, Battle Wagon driver, Villain and Watchman – and the drivers of the ice resurfacers. Vegas Golden Knights interns who work game days across all the VGK business teams will also be assisted by these efforts. Also the 51/49 raffle staff.

These funds are expected to be paid when the NHL officially announces that games have been canceled as opposed to postponed.

7,500 meals to doctors, nurses and employees at local hospitals

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Carp: A Hockey Season Without Spectators?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Let me give you a scenario and see if you could live with it.

The NHL decides it is safe for its players to resume playing, but not necessarily O.K. for fans to enter arenas to watch. Instead, the league opts to essentially turn their sport into a television studio event, like a soap opera.

You can watch, but there’s no studio audience as would be the case with, say, a game show. You can’t come inside. You can’t interact with the players. No signs asking for pucks. No dancing for the video board above center ice. No music to groove to.

How about this? The NHL hosts regional playoffs at neutral site cities. The Eastern Conference’s first and second rounds are played in Ottawa, the Western Conference plays in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But you still wouldn’t be able to attend.

Would you take either of those options? Or would you insist that no hockey be played until everyone could once again partake of the entire experience and be allowed inside their home team’s building?

I know what my answer would be. Give me the studio version of the NHL, including the playoffs. As long as every team’s game is shown for free in some fashion, I’m in.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly gave a frank assessment of the situation the other day when he told NHL.com the league is monitoring the coronavirus situation on a daily basis with medical and health officials and it will not resume the season until it is safe for the players, coaches, and officials to participate. Even the medical and science experts can’t predict when things will take a turn for the better.

Social distancing doesn’t exist on the ice. Players are engaged in a contact sport. This isn’t like a Public Service Announcement I saw the other day in which New York Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert told New Yorkers to keep a hockey stick’s length from each other as a way to properly socially distance themselves from each other. Frankly, I thought Gilbert should have borrowed Zdeno Chara’s stick for the PSA. It would have been a more effective visual.

Nonetheless, that’s not realistic in any kind of hockey game. Even a group of Mites playing are going to make contact with each other. So the NHL is absolutely right to make sure it’s safe for the players to compete against each other before it resumes its season.

The fans are a different story. You can play hockey games without people in the stands. And that’s why the NHL might want to rethink the idea of going right back into its arenas while the coronavirus is impacting the country.

Thursday, radio host Brian Blessing and I talked on his show Vegas Hockey Hotline about the idea of playing games in practice facilities until it’s safe to let people inside the arenas. Many teams have very nice places to practice, with the Golden Knights’ City National Arena arguably the NHL’s best. There are places to set up television cameras, the Knights already have their locker room. The visiting team’s quarters could be UNLV’s locker room. It would be spartan by NHL standards but when the Knights went to the other team’s place, they would deal with it too.

As for the rink itself, it reminds me of the scene in the movie Hoosiers when Gene Hackman took out the tape measure at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and told his team, “You’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back home.” The ice at CNA is the exact same size as T-Mobile Arena — 200 by 85 feet. And if it means playing in July, the quality of the ice stands a better chance of holding up in a smaller building with fewer people inside it.

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Carp: Ready For The Future

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.

But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.

Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.

The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.

The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.

The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.

But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.

McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.

The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon

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NHL Players Considering Proposal To Play In August And September

Every day it seems like the news surrounding the virus is getting worse and worse. Unless you are actively seeking out positivity, you can’t help but feel like it’s spiraling out of control in the wrong direction.

That’s why yesterday’s news from the TSN Insider Trading crew came as such a welcome surprise. According to Frank Seravalli, a group of NHL players has begun working on a proposal to play regular-season games in late July followed by the playoffs in August and September. That would leave an “offseason” including the draft and free agency in October and then the 2020-21 season to begin, and be played in full, in November.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The plan is still in the “idea phase” and has not yet been sent up to the league as a true proposal but Pierre LeBrun says it already has the blessing of many players and at least one NHL owner.

Obviously, any plan to return to playing hockey and awarding the Cup for this season should be embraced with open arms by the Golden Knights (we’ve already discussed this), but this one is about as good as it possibly gets for Las Vegas.

First off, bringing back a few regular-season games would be terrific for a team that has little to no danger of falling out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the games should have enough importance that they aren’t glorified preseason games. Hockey won’t look like hockey, and definitely not playoff hockey, for at least a week or two, so playing a few games before the playoffs will be huge in getting the game back up to speed.

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Carp: Turning A Negative Into A Positive

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

There’s been so much to process this week with the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on our daily lives. In my regular job as editor of Gaming Today, our world is changing by the hour as casinos shut down parts of their operation, people are being paid off and the Las Vegas economy goes in the tank. It’s hard to stay on top of the news and frankly, it’s extremely depressing.

Not having hockey to watch and cover is also depressing. I won’t lie to you, I miss going to T-Mobile Arena to watch the Golden Knights and I miss the NHL in general.

But ultimately, this negative can be a huge positive, both for the team and its fans. Ken touched on it the other day when he correctly pointed out that the hiatus will allow Vegas’ injured players to heal up and be ready for the resumption of the season.

Let’s face it, the prospects of going to Minnesota Thursday and Colorado Sunday without Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty would have been bleak, especially given that every game is so critical. But with that no longer being a concern, they, along with Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson and every other player who is dealing with aches and pains, have time to recover and get themselves ready to return to the ice.

Of course, the other 30 NHL teams have that luxury too. But I would not worry about that if I were you. Your focus is on your team and this is a good thing.

It’s also a chance for newcomers Robin Lehner, Alec Martinez and Nick Cousins to get their personal lives together, stabilize their domestic situations and settle in. Imagine how hectic it has been for them changing teams and cities in the middle of the season and how stressful it has been for their families.

They can put this downtime to effective use and get their bearings in Las Vegas.

There’s also the possibility the Knights could get stronger and add more depth to their roster. The NCAA has shut down its hockey season and that means Providence’s Jack Dugan can make a seamless transition from college to pro if he chooses to.

When I talked to Dugan in January before the Fortress Invitational, he made it clear that his intention was to play in the NHL and to do it with the Golden Knights. I would be shocked if he hasn’t already hired an agent and has undergone contract discussions with GM Kelly McCrimmon on an entry-level deal.

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Positive And Negative Effects Of Season Suspension For Golden Knights

The NHL season is officially “paused” with the hope that it will resume sometime in the near future. When, or if, that will happen remains a mystery to all as slowing the spread of the virus takes precedence over all else. However, hockey will return at some point, be it in April, May, or much later. The NHL is not gone forever which means the Golden Knights will return to the ice and like every team will feel the effects of the hiatus.

Injuries

The Golden Knights were set to play in Minnesota with a pretty banged up roster. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty were both on the shelf until at least the end of March, Alex Tuch has been out since February 13th and suffered a set back a few days ago extending the injury, Chandler Stephenson missed a game with a wrist injury but was expected to play yesterday, and Cody Glass had been ruled out for the season after knee surgery.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The hiatus is almost certainly going to last a month, which means aside from Glass, the Golden Knights should be as close to healthy as any team in the league when hockey does indeed return. Every team will benefit from the break but it will have a greater impact on playoff teams who were potentially heading in without a star player or two. Colorado and Tampa Bay stand to gain more than Vegas, but the Golden Knights have to like their chances entering a playoff run as healthy as they’ll likely be whenever this does end.

Schedule Format

There are plenty of potential options the league could use if the season does start back up with a plan to award the 2020 Stanley Cup. For the most part, any option will benefit the Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights were going to make the playoffs if the season was played out in full, but now, there’s essentially no format that will keep them out. There are really two options for the NHL.

  • Select playoff teams based on points percentage on March 11th
  • Return for a few regular season games before the playoffs begin

It’ll all depend on timing, but either option has the Golden Knights sitting pretty. As of the pause, Vegas is in 1st place by three points and .021 percentage points over Edmonton. Also, the Golden Knights have moved up to 3rd place in the Western Conference. A few games being added to the regular season could shuffle things at bit, but no matter what, the Golden Knights will be in pretty good shape.

Playoff Format

The NHL playoffs normally take more than two months to complete. The league may not have that kind of time this year. So, there are two choices the NHL can make to shorten that time frame. First, they can remove games from the early rounds. The first round might become a best-of-five, maybe the second round too. Instead of having to win 16 games, maybe it shrinks to only 14. The other option is to tighten up the dates on the games played. Play back-to-backs on the home games or when travel is light. The normal format has at least one day between every game and sometimes two. It takes two weeks to finish a seven-game series. The calendar may dictate needing to wrap series up in 10 days instead.

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Carp: Coronavirus Potentially Puts NHL Season On The Brink

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I got a chill Saturday morning, and not just because I was up in Reno.

The NHL is considering closing its locker rooms to the media because of the coronavirus and it hit me like a hard slap in the face. It made me wonder if more extreme measures are coming, like putting the current season on hold, or worse, canceling the rest of the year.

On the surface, closing the room to the media seems like an extreme move. Those conversations between players and reporters are important to the game. It helps connect the fans to hockey.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But when you think about it, it’s about player safety. Granted, you would like to think that those of us who cover the league would be smart enough to stay out of the locker room if we’re under the weather. But when you have pressure from editors to get stories and you’re facing stiff competition on the beat, you usually put your health second and forge ahead.

That’s obviously not the smart thing to do but that’s the way it usually works. It’s the competitive nature of the journalism business.

Frankly, if I was a player, I probably wouldn’t want a TV guy with the flu next to me. And nobody knows who has or doesn’t have the coronavirus since you can’t get tested because there aren’t enough kits available and there’s no vaccine to immunize you from it. You may have it and not even know it. Or you could be sick as a dog with similar symptoms and not have the coronavirus and it could be just a regular bout of flu.

The NHL can’t roll the dice when it comes to the unknown. It has to protect its investment, which is the players and the game itself. But I’m not sure a “mixed zone” environment where reporters and athletes are separated by a rope in conducting postgame business would be any safer. Your proximity to the athlete is virtually the same as if you were inside the locker room gathered at his stall.

Some teams have instituted a closed room policy. Others are having a wait-and-see attitude. I imagine the NHL will have a blanket policy in place regarding locker room access, perhaps as early as today.

But make no mistake about it, it’s going to impact how teams are covered, how news is reported and what you read here at SinBin. Ken and Jason are daily visitors to City National Arena, me, a little less frequently. The amazing work they and the rest of the media group which covers the Golden Knights do will be hampered by this edict.

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