Last night, while most of you were tucked away in your beds, the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) made it’s return to baseball stadiums in South Korea after a delay of about a month as the country has slowly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening Day for the KBO meant playing in mostly empty stadiums, save for a handful of stadium workers, some league officials and of course the teams playing. Beyond the lack of people, there really wasn’t much different about the actual games themselves. You could still hear chatter between players and coaches. Music was still being played on stadium speakers between pitches and innings. Video boards were lit up with the usual team and game graphics you’d come to expect at a sporting event. Home runs were hit, solid defensive plays were made, my long time beloved SK Wyverns (beloved since about 1 PM on Monday afternoon when KBO fever started sweeping the social medias) were shutout by the Hanwha Eagles and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Warwick Saupold who pitched a 2-hit gem complete game… So the action even features soul (Seoul?) crushing defeats that I’ve grown accustom to in sports.
As a sports fan, it was nice to have a little bit of normalcy back even though there were reminders through the games that we’re still not back to full normal. Watching baseball back on my TV screen also made me long for hockey again. Not the retro games we’ve been able to enjoy the last while, but actual real, live hockey being played.
And it sure seems like eventually we will get that in the form of a conclusion to the 2019-20 NHL season. The NHL continues to explore options to resume play, with cities like Edmonton and Vancouver submitting “bids” to host games – the term being used is ‘hub city’ – for the NHL’s return. Sure taking part in, and watching games played out in empty arenas is going to be strange for everyone who hasn’t played for, or watched the Florida Panthers on a regular basis, but after last night’s KBO action, I am convinced it wouldn’t take much getting used to.
The Athletic’s Sean McIndoe listed off a handful of things that will be different, but there are three other things I want to see the NHL do when hockey returns to empty arenas to really hammer home the point that we are indeed living in the strangest timeline…
1 – Fan reaction cams
The NFL Draft did it, and last night the KBO did it too…
When we do get pro sports back in North America, TV networks need to do this… Fan reactions from their living rooms. pic.twitter.com/Hkc9hCyvoJ
— Hi I'm Art (@GameTimeArt) May 5, 2020
I need this with hockey. Every time a goal is scored, every time a penalty is called, every time Pierre McGuire says something creepy that only Pierre McGuire would say… I need a cut away to hockey fans in their homes reacting to what they just seen or heard.
If this isn’t possible, then can we at least get a live-cam on Steve Dangle during Leafs playoff games?
2 – Go announcer-less
Or at the very least, give us the option to watch games without the traditional two man commentary team. I’ve actually been wanting this for years, and have never understood why MLB can do it through their online streaming service, but the NHL can’t, or won’t.
If you’ve watched hockey in a mostly empty arena – be it an early morning game involving kids, or a late night beer league game, then you kind of know how comforting the sounds of the game can be. Some people like to listen to the sound of ocean waves crashing against a shore, or the rumble of distant thunder to go to sleep. I would prefer the sounds of steel blades carving up ice.
Now seems like it would be the perfect time to go ahead with this. Better yet, add a few more microphones to ice level to make sure we get all the sounds. We’ll hear everything and it will be glorious. The cracking of pucks being hit by sticks, players calling out plays or chirping each. Sure, there probably will be some profanity that will come through on the mics and that might bother those with more sensitive ears, but we’ll just have to tell Paul Maurice to chill out with the language.
3 – Allow all the trades
Jason Gregor kind of touched on this over on OilersNation. Holding a draft before the end of the season is going to be dumb enough, (although as a Jets fan I am not going to complain too loudly) and part of the reason it’s dumb is because we won’t get any real trades like we normally do in every draft.
You know what, this NHL season is already messed up and strange and it has been ever since we saw Mark Letestu eat a packet of mustard on the bench. If you’re going to play hockey through July and August – which defies several laws of physics and science – then why not fully embrace the madness by allowing teams to make trades and have them valid for the end of the current season?
You’re going to see players who were previously thought to be “out for the rest of the season” – like Bryan Little – have a chance to play games at the end of the season and that kind of feels like we’re messing with an unnatural timeline, so why not fully embrace the madness?
Allow trades to take place during the draft. Players acquired during that June draft can suit up for their new teams once the season picks up again in July or August or whenever it resumes. This goes double for the kids drafted. Ottawa fans have already suffered long enough, let them get a glimpse of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield to close out their season.