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FTB: competitive advantages from relaxing stay-at-home restrictions

The NBA is reportedly starting to let players into their team practice facilities, what will the NHL do?

The Toronto Maple Leafs host their mentors road trip
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 4, 2020 - A pair of mannequins that are used for goaltending drills wait to be used as the Toronto Maple Leafs host their mentors road trip in Toronto. February 4, 2020.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

On Saturday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke news in the NBA that teams living in states and local governments that are beginning to relax social distancing measures in the fight against COVID-19 will be able to re-open their practice facilities for players and staff to train. States like Georgia (where the Atlanta Hawks play) are loosening restrictions on buildings that are allowed to be open, such as hair salons, bowling alleys, and gyms, according to research done by the New York Times.

With Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska, and South Carolina looking to open businesses such as gyms. While there are no NHL teams calling the states mentioned above home, according to the NYT and Global News, Colorado, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, and Tennessee are also planning to relax their social distancing measures to some degree once their current restriction expires in early May. The Colorado Avalanche (who have had two positive cases amongst their players), Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators all play in those states.

Is this a competitive advantage? Should players be allowed to meet while others cannot? The NHL has a mandated number of off-days for the players, negotiated in the CBA, which You may remember the chaos storm that arose when the Edmonton Oilers tried to change their off-day after a big loss.

Section 16.5 of the CBA explores the number of travel and off days players get within a given month during the regular season. Training camps are strictly regulated in terms of hours on and off the ice with coaches. While the league is suspended, do these rules remain in effect, or do off-season rules apply? The NBA has reportedly made a decision on this, but for the NHL, it will take some time.

The NHL will likely implement some form of a training camp to allow players and coaches a chance to get their game readiness and systems back up to speed before either finishing the regular season and/or playing the playoffs. The league has also been consistent in their search for central cities that could host the entire playoffs, similar to how Toronto hosted the World Cup of Hockey in September, 2016. Simpler times, then.

While players are doing their best to remain fit, some have better at-home gym facilities than others. For example, North American players might have nice big estates in the country with lots of space, while some European players who couldn’t quite get home before travel restrictions began might still be in a condo. That already is somewhat of a disadvantage. I don’t believe it would be a big step to open team facilities in a sporting sense, unless coaches are present and conducting drills before the official league-regulated training camp.

And with all of these sporting regulations floating around, the primary concern should be whether teams will be willing to risk the health of their players with North America very much not yet in the clear when it comes to the first wave of this new coronavirus? Some NBA GMs are using these restriction decisions to wash their hands of the decision, even if it’s too soon.

Leafs Branches

  • Filling the hockey void are the boys from Back to Excited. This week’s podcast is on NHL restart plans, expected goals models that make Tyson Barrie look bad, and Auston Matthews being a better player than Connor McDavid. Probably, I haven’t listened to the episode yet. [Discussions in the comments here]
  • On the floor of Scotiabank Arena, MLSE is going to make 10,000 meals for “Toronto’s front-line health-care workers and their families as well as the city’s most vulnerable via community agencies and shelters.”

Other Hockey Branches

We are beginning our seventh week without hockey. On the weekend, only the Leafs are making news at this point.