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How Will the NHL Look Once it Resumes?

Written by Noah Foster

Hockey is back!

Well, not quite. But as the NHL looks to gear up for a 24-team playoff in the near future, it's worth exploring what changes might be made to make the game safer for players, coaches, and referees.

We all saw this one coming. . .

This is likely the unfortunate truth for the playoffs, but no fans will be present in the stands. It will be heartbreaking to see players take the ice, deliver huge hits, and score game-winning goals with no one to be there screaming and cheering, but it's the easiest way to keep thousands of people healthy. If there is anything positive to take from that, it will be hearing the in-game communication between players that is often drowned out by the noise of the stadium, as well as a few chirps thrown back and forth between opposing teams. That means players will probably have to clean up their language because they will be on national television. Looking at you, Ryan Reaves.

How to socially distance while playing a physical game

Obviously, it will be impossible to stay 6 feet apart from other players during play, but there are some small ways for those not on the ice to separate, if only a little more than usual. Coaches can be further away from each other on the bench, and can wear masks. When referees come over to explain a call to an angry coach, a mask will help the referees stay safer. In terms of the players, there doesn't seem to be a clear answer to separate players on the bench. The hope is that these players have all been tested and are healthy, so spreading germs will not be an issue.

The problem comes during play. Everyone loves the playoff physicality, scrums, and fights. But a lot of ¨extracurriculars¨, as Doc Emerick loves to say, will have to be limited and/or stopped altogether. Physicality and checks can stay, because, well, hockey without those is like basketball on skates. The scrums and fights will likely have to be stopped to limit the amount of contact players have with non-teammates. Yes, I'm sad we might not see any of that this year, but if it means we can see hockey back sooner, I'm all for it.

Fishbowls for everyone!

A great way to prevent players’ germs from spreading unnecessarily is for everyone to wear a full face shield, or as hockey players sometimes call it, a fishbowl. Usually these are reserved for players with facial injuries, and many players wear a visor that only covers their eyes, or none at all. But the fishbowl would be a great way to prevent germs from spreading because it blocks most of the exhale from reaching other players, as well as mostly blocks outside germs from coming in. It also stops the problem of spitting as well.

There's no doubt hockey will look different when it returns. But at the end of the day, any hockey at all is better than no hockey. The NHL is trying to keep players, coaches, referees, and fans safe while also continuing with the playoffs, and balancing those two needs means sacrifices will have to be made. What I do know is that when hockey returns, we will all have a much greater appreciation for it.

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