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Ed Willes' musings: NHL's return is all about dollars, not sense


Assuming we have the days right, this should be Monday, which means it’s time for the musings and meditations on the world of sports.

In a world yearning for some sign of normalcy, most hockey fans would take a look at the NHL’s plan to finish this season and say, “Great, where do I sign up?”

Four locales will host the four divisions — and it’s hard to see where Vancouver wouldn’t fit in the mix for the Pacific Division. A meaningful training camp starting in mid- to late May. The conclusion of the regular season followed by a Stanley Cup tournament.

It might be missing some things — like fans — but given what we’ve endured for the last six weeks, the resumption of play would be welcomed all over the hockey world.

The problem, of course, is when you start asking questions about how this is all going to work. Which is also the problem facing any plan to reopen society.

What happens, for example, the first time a player tests positive for the coronavirus? How can they adequately test all the players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and staff for each team on a regular basis? How long will it take to receive the results of those tests? Will the players agree to being separated from their families for up to four months?

Each question, in turn, raises another series of questions. Those questions generate more questions. And for all that, here’s the big one. What would happen to the league if it restarted, then had to cancel again?

Look, the NHL is a US$5-billion business which is looking to mitigate its losses this season. That’s understandable. It’s also believed the league can generate about $500 million in revenues if it plays out this season, and that money might buy some time to start the 2020-21 season under more desirable circumstances.

But the calculation here is over the risk and the reward. And the risk to the NHL is gargantuan on so many levels.

There are smart people running the league. There are also greedy people running the league. It’s been clear for a couple of weeks now the NHL is pushing this plan to finish the season, and the only force that can stop it is the public health authority.

With so much at stake, they’d better get it right.

Thanks to the alert readers who pointed out the 1990 draft was held at B.C. Place and not, as reported here, at the Pacific Coliseum. Now for the sad part. I was at the frickin’ event.

As a public service in these trying times, here are five songs which are guaranteed to make you feel better.

1. Better Things, The Kinks

2. What Is Life, George Harrison

3. Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen

4. People Got To Be Free, The Rascals

5. Any cover of Pretty Flamingo but the Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, guys from Squeeze version is recommended.

Honourable mention: The Lions Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens, but you really need to sing it with your two-year-old granddaughter for maximum effect.

Granted there are more experts on the NFL draft than there are stars in the sky, but a couple of platforms opined the Pittsburgh Steelers might have reached to draft Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool 49th overall.

Maybe. But here are two thoughts.

1. I’m unfamiliar with a game where a 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver who runs 4.4 in the 40 isn’t effective.

2. The Steelers have a pretty good track record in drafting receivers.

A couple of other takeaways from the NFL Draft.

— In previous drafts Roger Goodell set a high standard for awkwardness with the ritualistic hugging of first-round draft picks, but give the man credit. His attempts to jack up the virtual crowd for the virtual draft — “Let me hear you, Kansas City!!!!” — were even more cringeworthy.

— Don’t know if the best move was the Packers trading up to draft quarterback Jordan Love when their own quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was crying for help. Do know it was the most dramatic.

— Can’t wait to see what Eagles coach Doug Peterson does with Jalen Hurts, the multi-dimensional quarterback from Oklahoma by way of Alabama.

— Or maybe I was just thinking about Jason Botchford, the ultimate Eagles fan, with that last one.

Find it hard to believe, but it’s been a year since we lost Botch and the sense of loss is still as fresh, still as real, as the day I heard he was gone.

I’m not going to pretend we were close, but I worked with the man for 13 years. Over that time I watched him grow into a force who reshaped the way the game is covered; a force whose influence on this market transcended the sports pages.

I didn’t always agree with his methods, but you couldn’t deny his impact or his connection with Canucks fans. He built something with those fans, a relationship unlike any I’ve seen between a writer and his audience. It was loud, profane, funny but mostly it was passionate, and that was reflected in the comments on Twitter over the weekend when #RIPBotch became a trending topic in Canada.

He touched so many people during his time here and they remembered over the weekend, remembered everything Botch gave them.

He might be gone. He’ll never be forgotten.

ewilles@postmedia.com

twitter.com/WillesOnSports


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