Hurry up and wait. It’s a line that is used all the time in sports.
You hurry up and get to a destination to play a game and then you wait for the next day to play it.
You hurry up and get to the morning skate, or shoot-around or batting practice, and then you wait for the game to actually arrive.
Right now much of the sports world is in a very different hurry up and wait given that most leagues in North America have suspended play due to COVID-19 concerns.
It’s far less definitive and for players and coaches, it will be very difficult.
Seasons have a rhythm to them.
Picture a game of musical chairs. For months now, hockey and basketball players have been moving around and around those chairs trying to make sure they have a place to sit in time for the start of the playoffs. The music was due to stop for major junior teams in a little over two weeks. Leagues like the NHL and the NBA would have walked around those chairs for slightly longer.
Over the past two days, the music has stopped, only there aren’t any chairs to sit in at all.
Primary concerns remain with preventing the potential spread of any novel coronavirus. Suspending play has been the right thing to do but this will be an adjustment.
Teams were ramping up their levels. The contenders were beginning to play the way it takes to win once the post-season arrives.
Desperation was beginning to creep into the play of anyone on the bubble.
Now things go quiet and the impact will be felt.
Every rhythm that players get into during the year goes away. They can enjoy some downtime but that can be a detriment.
One of the best examples comes from the Boston Bruins back in 2009.
Boston was coming off an incredible regular season. They tied the San Jose Sharks for most wins that year with 53. The Bruins took on the 8th-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the opening round and predictably swept them in four games.
The rest of the Eastern Conference had it a whole lot rougher. The Penguins and Flyers went six games and the other two series went to a winner-take-all game seven. When Carolina completed an upset of the New Jersey Devils Boston finally knew the identity of their second-round opponent.
There were nine days between the end of Boston’s first-round series and the start of round two against Carolina.
The Bruins players were given a few days off and they allowed themselves to relax. It was hard not to. In some ways after a long grind to finish where they did in the standings they got a break and a bit of an off-season before getting back into their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Only after letting their guard down it was harder than they thought to ramp things back up.
Boston won the first game of their series against the Hurricanes but then lost the next three and they lost the series in seven.
There is a hope that leagues will resume playing. The leagues themselves have every intention. The NHL made clear that it would happen “as soon as it was appropriate and prudent.”
Fans have their fingers crossed. Right now the focus is rightfully turning away from sports. The desire to make sure everyone is doing what they can to protect themselves and remain healthy.
If and when there is a return to games, the players and teams who come back from their time off feeling the least like they have had that time off will have the best chance to be seated comfortably in a final chair and clutching a trophy in the end.
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