In the last several days, 41 of 52 National Hockey League games have been COVIDed out in slow motion, a festival of postponements that have become a gigantic game of viral keno. The latest of these came just this afternoon, when the league banged Caps-Flyers, which leaves only that Original 31 classic, Lightning–Golden Knights, between now and Santa. For the purist, this is the two division leaders showing off with the rest of the league watching from their collective sickbeds. For the casual fan, the game evokes the question, “In what comedy writers’ room did Las Vegas become the last healthy place in North America to do this sport?”
That’s it, really. Tampa-Vegas as the last two standing teams is the truest definition of Gary Bettman’s National Hockey League, and the weirdest Stanley Cup Final preview ever. While the NFL and NBA are just moving games around to satisfy their television overlords, and while the NFL is specifically saying, We won’t ask, you won’t tell, and we can all go to hell with its new non-protocols, the NHL has been slowly disappearing into the walls like the Cheshire cat, acknowledging a disease that everyone else wants to either deny or defy, the two least effective strategies imaginable.
But the league isn’t ready to vanish completely, not yet. The Olympics are all but dead, leaving a 20-day games hole in February that will presumably be filled by the 48 games that were disappeared, 45 of which have been PPD’d in the last nine days, but there’s still Lightning-Knights in the real town that never sleeps and which presents the largest number of opportunities to catch one disease or another. There is an irony in this that would compel the late David Stern to rise from his grave, put his ethereal arm around Bettman’s real shoulder, and laugh, Imagine what we could have done with this when I was alive and you were my consigliere.
Instead, we have only this game, which will be carried on ESPN+ and an alphabet soup of off-brand carriers (BSSUN, ATTSN-RM, SN (JIP), SN360, TVAS) and no, I will not look any of those up for you. You want this game that badly, you find it.
And, we bet, it will be a hell of a game between two of the best teams in the league. One last defiant middle finger to the mighty Omicron before the newly extended holiday season.
Or one last dejected postponement in three … two … one …