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COVID-19: Sports leagues get a new playbook

As we head (we hope) toward the end of the latest provincial health order regarding what is allowable under COVID-19 restrictions, I thought I would take this week’s column to look at how some different sports are dealing with COVID, either in season or preparing for the new season.

The NFL has been better recently, after having to reschedule what seemed like every second game at the beginning of the season as teams reported positive COVID tests from players and team personnel. They ran into another hiccup this past weekend, with the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Thursday being postponed until Sunday because of positives from Baltimore, then being pushed back to Tuesday.

I’m writing this on Saturday, so I don’t know if they played the game last night or not, but I also just finished reading a story on the ESPN site about some members of the Pittsburgh team testing positive.

The biggest problem the NFL is running into as they get into the homestretch of the regular season is there are no more bye weeks for the teams. That means if, for instance, the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game or any other game was cancelled, it would be almost impossible to make it up without adding an extra week to the season.

The NBA appears to have looked at the NFL experience in getting ready for its new season to tip off on Dec. 22. They have announced they will be releasing the regular-season schedule in two phases, one in the next week or two for games between Dec. 22 and March 4, and the second one for games between March 11 and May 16, which will be released near the end of the first half.

This will allow them some flexibility to make up games that may be cancelled in the first part of the season without having to rework the entire schedule.

Meanwhile, the NFL could have another problem with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s not because of positive COVID tests, it’s because Santa Clara County has banned all contact sports from holding practices and games for the next three weeks. The 49ers have two home games scheduled during those three weeks, and also practices at the same stadium

The ban also affects college sports at Stanford and San Jose State – and possibly the San Jose Sharks. The NHL has not announced official dates for the start of training camp, and it will be interesting to see whether they hold off on that announcement for a while to see what happens with the Sharks, who may be forced to seek a temporary home.

Sort of like the Toronto Raptors, who will start the NBA season playing their ‘home’ games in Tampa, Florida because of COVID travel restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Canada.

Meanwhile, fans up here wait to see what happens with the Spruce Kings and the Cougars – and how long whatever solution is put in place holds before more restrictions come in.

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