There we all were, in the middle of a Winnipeg Jets playoff push that many of us were starting to really get into. The theme for the entire 2019-20 season for the Jets seemed to be “What could possibly happen next?” but through departures of defencemen, packets of mustard, strange football related injuries, multiple dips into the waiver pool, scary hockey related injuries, and of course Buff drama, the Jets somehow managed to be in the middle of a race for one of two (maybe even three given how poorly the Dallas Stars had been slumping) playoff spots.
Sure things were kind of scary, and falling apart and we were unsure what each new day would bring… But enough about the Jets defense.
On March 12, it all came to a grinding halt.
Welp, enjoy this game… It might be the last we get for a while if the NHL follows suit! 😳 https://t.co/gMKSDjPQ3n
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) March 12, 2020
We hadn’t even gotten through the first period of Jets v Edmonton Oilers when news broke that the Utah Jazz / Oklahoma City Thunder game had been postponed as it was discovered that Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. After days of speculation on just how much the pandemic would affect the sports world as local regions started to prohibit mass gatherings such as sporting events, a harsh reality finally set in and things were going to have to be shut down as terms like “social distancing” and “stop the spread” were on top of everyone’s minds.
The NBA acted rather quickly, letting games that had started to finish, but postponing any games taking place later that night.
The NHL of course did what the NHL always does… React slowly.
Games that night were allowed to be played out – including west coast games that hadn’t started yet. That meant that the Ottawa Senators – who two days earlier had played in San Jose – went up against the Los Angeles Kings in a rather meaningless game between two clubs playing out the string. Of course weeks later we found out that both the Sharks and Senators had employees or members of the organization that tested positive for COVID-19 and one wonders if the NHL didn’t dodge a bigger mess as the Kings stated that no one from their club had tested positive.
Meanwhile in Edmonton…
The Jets beat the Oilers 4-2 in a game that meant more to the standings than Sens/Kings did, and it was the first time the Jets had put together a four game winning streak this season, and yet it didn’t seem to matter. We all knew what was coming next even if it took the NHL a hot minute to come out and say it, but they did eventually.
The term the NHL used was “pause” but as we now go into month three without hockey, we have no idea what to expect going forward. Will the season be finished? How so? Are they going to play hockey in July and August? Will they do it in select cities without fans attending? How will playoff teams be determined if they just go straight to playoffs? There is a “68 point solution” for that. When will the draft happen? Wait, the draft is going to happen before the season ends? Is the NHL crazy?
Notice you haven’t heard anything about an early June draft since… Because as always and much like pausing the season in the first place, the NHL had to be talked out of it by more well reasoned thinkers.
Meanwhile in Winnipeg…
Players returned back home (and then at the suggestion of the NHL, returned to their actual homes if it wasn’t the city they were playing in) and offered messages of support for fans. They also stepped up with a big time donation to Winnipeg Harvest.
True North Sports and Entertainment – perhaps thinking that a return to hockey would be within a single month and not multiple months – originally seemed to balk at the idea of helping their arena staff and employees, but after four days of pressure acquiesced and did the right thing.
Other hockey leagues started to cancel their seasons outright. The CHL and Winnipeg Ice canceled their regular season shortly after the pause and a month later did the same with their playoffs and Memorial Cup. The AHL and Manitoba Moose yesterday pulled the plug on their entire season outright.
The Jets said hello to a new defenseman by signing top prospect Dylan Samberg to a three year ELC deal.
They also finally said good by to their most popular defenseman as they finalized the contract termination with Dustin Byfuglien.
And maybe most important of all, we celebrated Dale Hawerchuk completing his chemotherapy treatments.
Even if actually hockey hasn’t happened, a lot of things still have which makes this whole situation surreal. Time marches on, but without a lot of things that we’ve been used to.
That wasn’t the only thing to happen on this day…
Two months ago, the season was paused. Funny enough, two years ago today the Jets skated in game one of the 2018 Western Conference Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
2 years ago today: Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in Winnipeg.
One of the best atmospheres I’ve seen in sports.
I miss hockey. pic.twitter.com/g2djew7typ
— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) May 12, 2020
We all miss hockey. We miss what we used to think was normal. We’ll get it back again… Eventually.