Opening night during a pandemic: is there really ever a good time to start a sports season during COVID-19? 

Written By Mason Strawn

To play, or not to play; that is the question. Right now, no one seems to really know at all. As both the NBA and NHL completed their seasons around a month ago, there now comes another issue that is closing in quickly on the two leagues: the start of their next season. With both seasons ending so late in the year compared to the summer finales that both leagues are used to, their 2020-2021 seasons now have to be pushed back, and possibly shortened as well to comply with the weird timing. 

If you follow sports on social media at all, you definitely have seen the Tampa Bay Lightning losing it in south Florida over the last couple of weeks after their cup win and have totally seen the crazy antics going on in Los Angeles after both the LA Dodgers and the LA Lakers won their championships in a two week span. But already, the NBA is breathing down player’s necks with a possible season start being on Dec. 22. 

The players and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) don’t like this proposal. After all, several teams and hundreds of players were just living in a bubble, where the only thing they were allowed to focus on was basketball, basketball, basketball. The players want time to actually spend in their homes and off of the basketball court for at least a few months to unwind and relax for a second. 

The NBPA offered the NBA a new proposal, with a shorter season that would start on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 18). There’s only one problem with this proposal; in only a month’s time, the NBA could lose up to almost $1.5 BILLION dollars if they comply with the Jan. start. 

There also comes into play the fact that the eight teams that didn’t get to compete in the bubble have not played any official games since March— almost eight months ago. There are also other teams that were eliminated early from the bubble that haven’t officially played a game since August and have been ready to get back into play again. 

Although several big name players, such as Lebron James and Anthony Davis, are massively against the Dec. start with a 72 game season, many around the league believe that the big money will win out in the end, and that the season will start in Dec., unless something drastic were to occur. With it already the first week of Nov., and with a Dec. start only being less than two months away, the league will have to get a move on quickly if they want to get back into the swing of things in time. 

The NHL, surprisingly, has a much more concrete plan in place for their upcoming season, already confirming a target date of Jan. 1 to start their 2021 season. Of course this plan does have some flaws already protruding, with the team having to deal with the Olympics possibly butting heads with them in July, as well as already having to cancel the Winter Classic and All-star games for the season. 

Although the league is also still considering whether or not to condense their season down to almost half with 48 games or playing an almost full season with 72 games, it would appear that the NHL and their Players Association is more agreeing to the season plan than what the NBA is. Only time will tell how both of these plans will develop and finalize, just like COVID-19 itself.