A haunting realization for hockey fans


This was the picture at an empty MSG earlier as players warmed up.

The music might be the same. But the building isn’t. Without fans, there will continue to be hockey played as long as COVID-19 doesn’t affect the Rangers. It’s already impacted several American teams including the Devils, who never should’ve played the rematch at Buffalo over a week ago.

This empty scene is seen around most arenas. Here were the Senators preparing for their game.

There is no buzz in these buildings. Just players going about their business like they have so many times since childhood when they played peewee. Even those games were attended by family and friends. I used to watch my brother skate at the local Skating Pavilion down the road. It was always fun.

The point is it’s a sad reality. Here we are almost a year later with no end in sight to the pandemic. It could take months for many adults like myself to get the vaccine. It’s elderly like my parents and people with pre-existing conditions who are the priority. When they have shortages due to all the patients who must receive the vaccination, it’s not a positive sign.

It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. Considering all the snow, ice and freezing cold weather we’ve had since the calendar turned to February, you get the point. Sports are still going on, but with confusion like we saw with the Brooklyn Nets and the strange Kevin Durant situation last Friday. The COVID PROTOCOLS leaving star teammate James Harden confused.

There’s been talk that the Wild might not play this week either, forcing the NHL into more rescheduling of games. Something that could also occur with the Sabres and Devils. This is now official. No games this week for those three teams.

What if this disturbing trend continues? How can they continue to think they’ll complete a 56-game season? It feels like they’re gonna have to consider pausing. Even the NBA is doing better. But not much given all the players you find on Health and Safety Protocols. There are cancelations almost every night.

Somehow, the NFL completed their most challenging season last night with the Bucs and Tom Brady surprising the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in a 31-9 rout. The Super Bowl was played in Tampa before 25,000 fans spread out around the stadium. It was successful even if the big game fizzled.

The difference is football is played outdoors. They didn’t have to reschedule too many games and were able to work around the pandemic. Baseball too is outdoors. They played in a bubble and the Dodgers won the World Series over the Rays last year.

For indoor sports like the NHL and NBA, it remains a serious concern. Especially for hockey. Naturally, there have been no such issues in the All Canadian North Division. It’s here in America where the virus continues to run rampant.

I have no clue when things will return to normal. While some teams can host a limited amount of fans like in Florida and Texas, most NHL arenas will be eerily silent except for the music and pumped in crowd noise. It isn’t the same. However, there’s nothing they can do about it. All we can do is watch when our teams are on. Enjoy it for what it is. A necessary distraction from reality.

There isn’t much else to say. Hope feels a long way off. We got a long long way to go.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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