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Willes' Musings: Don't sweat the small stuff, just celebrate the return of NHL hockey

Another week has flown past which means it’s time for the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports. At least we think it’s that time. If it isn’t, have this one on me.

With the NHL lurching towards a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament, it would seem to be the solemn responsibility of this space to express an opinion.

Sorry, the pandemic has robbed me of the energy to muster that opinion.

Yes, the tournament is a blatant money grab and, yes, the format is deeply flawed. But, given the current condition of our world, it’s impossible to judge these things by normal standards.

The mere fact that hockey will take place is notable, a sign that maybe, just maybe, we’re emerging from the darkness. We need that. We need that like we need oxygen. Twenty-four teams, sixteen teams, best-of-fives, best-of-sevens. Who cares. Just give us something to remind us of the way things were and the way they’ll be again.

I can live with a phoney tournament and its inherent hypocrisy. I’m not sure I can live with another six months of watching the 1988 Stanley Cup Final.

In assessing Jim Benning’s job performance in his six years as the Vancouver Canucks’ GM one thought keeps coming to mind. Had the Canucks drafted Matthew Tkachuk instead of Olli Juolevi in 2016, Benning would be celebrated around the league for his work in rebuilding the Canucks. Just think of Tkachuk in the Canucks’ top six. Think of the young core he’d form with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes. Think of the grit he’d add to the lineup.

I know every team can play that game with draft picks and it could be Pettersson and Hughes make up for the Tkachuk miss. But he was sitting on a platter for the Canucks and when you’re picking in the top five you can’t afford mistakes like that.

It’s a story from last week but it’s too good to let pass.

FC Seoul, from South Korea’s top soccer league, was fined a record 100 million KRW ($113,300) for placing what appeared to be sex dolls in the stands.

With fans prohibited from attending matches, the football club attempted to create atmosphere in their home park by placing 20 mannequins behind one of the goals. The mannequins all wore masks, some held signs and they were spread out responsibly.

They also looked for all the world like sex dolls.

“We would like to apologize to the fans,” the club said in a statement released on social media. “We are very sorry about the supporting mannequins that were placed during the game on May 17. These mannequins may have been made to look and feel like real humans but they are not for sexual use — as confirmed by the manufacturer from the beginning.”

That, apparently, was too fine a distinction for the K League.

“The disciplinary committee decided to take heavy disciplinary action considering the graveness of the incident,” the league said in a statement.

Sorry, when are things going to get back to normal?

We referenced an ESPN study over the weekend which valued the sports industry in the United States at about US$100 billion. Here are a couple of other items from that study.

— There are roughly three million jobs and 524 occupations dependent on sports in the U.S.

— Almost 300,000 Americans earn an average of US$45,649 a year from coaching and scouting.

— Sports related travel, which includes youth tournaments, generates US$32 billion annually.

— Each NFL game is worth US$24 million in television rights alone.

— Outdoor sports and recreations was not part of the study. It generates US$427 billion annually.

On another cheery note, Wikipedia has created a page identifying the world sports which have had events cancelled or postponed by the pandemic. It lists 51 sports as general headings but also breaks down some sports into subsets. For example, there are 17 motorsports which have been impacted by the coronavirus, eight different combat sports, five different cricket leagues and 21 soccer leagues.

The Washington Post lists the individual world sporting events which have been cancelled or postponed during the health crisis. There are about 500 of these events on one page. That’s also a partial list.

And finally, the current shutdown as posed any number of problems for Canada’s professional sports teams but one of the most vexing concerns season ticket refunds.

Teams need that money. They need it badly. That’s why they’re offering customers a number of incentives to keep deposits and/or payments with the clubs.

In letters which went out to season-tickets holders in mid-May, Canada’s seven NHL franchises offered rebates, food and beverage vouchers, credit with interest if tickets from this season were rolled into 2020-21 and a relaxed payment schedule on next year’s season tickets.

Most teams also erected deadlines on refunds and that deadline has already passed for season-ticket holders in Toronto and Montreal.

As for the Canucks, the deadline is June 3. The club is also offering increased food and beverage allowances, credit for the Canucks’ six remaining home games applied to next year and 2020-21 season tickets frozen at this year’s cost.

Kudos to Donna Spencer of Canadian Press for digging out that information.

The B.C. Lions, meanwhile, reached out to their fans last week in a concerted effort to keep season-ticket money in place.

“We are asking you to keep your ticket credit with us to help fight one of the biggest battles this team, this league and our nation has ever faced,” the Lions wrote in a letter to season ticket holders.

To that end, the Lions are offering season-ticket holders individual tickets at 50 per cent off if the CFL resumes play this year and additional season tickets at 50 per cent off.

It’s interesting to note the incentives aren’t as juicy for next season if this season is cancelled although Lions’ facemasks are offered for every season ticket purchased.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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