Dude’s Update On Pro Sports Return

Okay so are the professional sports league going to finish their seasons or not? Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused professional sports leagues to stop playing, the speculation has been when and if the leagues were going to play again. Now that we are nearing July 4th, we wonder when they will start.

If I have to be honest with you, at this point and with the COVID-19 numbers spiking once again, I would rather that leagues not try to finish their seasons and just wait until next year. Regardless, here are the latest updates:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is finally set to begin a 60-game schedule to start the end of July. The schedule will feature 40 games within the division and 20 inter league games against teams in corresponding regional divisions. The league has given each club the permission to decide how they will manage fans to coincide with local restrictions. The restart of “spring training” has already begun. It was also announced this week that MLB cancelled all minor league seasons in 2020. The league also ruled that spitting will not be allowed.

National Hockey League (NHL) is set to open training camps on July 10th. The league is planning to restart with a 24-team tournament to be played in two “hub cities”. The latest word was that Toronto and Edmonton were being considered as the hub cities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to revive their season with 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World with no fans in attendance. The spike in COVID cases in Florida has raised some concern but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still comfortable with the league’s plan to restart the season. There have been reports that NBA players will wear smart rings which will monitor their temperatures and other vital signs to ensure safety of their players.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to start playing again with what they call “The MLS is Back” tournament beginning July 8th in Orlando, Florida. Just this week, six players from FC Dallas have tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams will participate in group play much like they do in the World Cup.

The pandemic is already impacting the start of the National Football League (NFL). The league cancelled the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers which was scheduled for August. The league also cut down the preseason schedule from four to two games. There are still talks of shortening the regular season.

College football has been weighing their options but nothing has been decided. Players from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and other major colleges have tested positive. Coaches are navigating these issues while trying to prepare for the upcoming season. The season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th. There has been some talk of pushing the start of the season to February of 2021. I’m not sure about that one.

While we have been deprived of our professional sports teams, sports is really not the most important thing right now as the nation finds itself fighting the rise in coronavirus infections. Leagues shouldn’t return to playing just to play but do the smart thing even if it means they might not play at all. The end of the official seasons for the NBA, NHL or MLS shouldn’t be cheapened by some thrown-together tournament. Whoever wins the championship will be tagged with an asterisk anyway. As much as I love sports, let’s just hit the restart button when a full season can be played.

When Will Sports Play Again?

With most of America opening up again after the pandemic which caused professional sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons, there are plans of restarting professional sports. Here are the latest plans for restarting:

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league’s 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Hockey League (NHL)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently conducted a press conference outlining the NHL’s Return-to-Play plans.

This format will feature the top-12 teams in each conference playing in a qualifying round, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) clinching automatic bids into the first round of the playoffs. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have clinched in the Western Conference.

These eight teams will also play in an intraconference round-robin event that will determine the top-four seeds of the first round of the playoffs in each conference. These games will be played with regular season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in a qualifying round that will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to move on to the first round of the playoffs. The matchups for the first round series remain to be set as the Return To Play committee is still determining whether to set the format based on seeding or a bracket.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:
5 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 – Montreal Canadiens
6 – Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 – New York Rangers
7 – New York Islanders vs. 10 – Florida Panthers
8 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference:
5 – Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
6 – Nashville Predators vs. 11 – Arizona Coyotes
7 – Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 – Minnesota Wild
8 – Calgary Flames vs. 9 – Winnipeg Jets

The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series, while the Return To Play committee has yet to finalize whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five series or a best-of-seven series. However, the Conference Final round and the Stanley Cup Final will all be a best-of-seven series.

Once the round-robin and qualifying rounds have ended, the league will conduct conference-based playoffs in each hub city.

The league is currently still debating over a total of 10 cities, and it will eventually come down to two final cities to host the Return To Play format once the league can officially restart play.

Those cities include:

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Edmonton
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Pittsburgh
Toronto
Vancouver

Commissioner Bettman did say that a final decision on the two hub cities to host the conclusion of the 2019-20 season might not come for another 3-4 weeks, and that a final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, and government regulations.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

There is no decision on how or when Major League Baseball will return. This is largely due to indecision on plans between the league and the players’ union. The latest proposal is for a 76-game season to begin in July and end in October. The issue seems to be cutting player salaries for the shortened season proposal which the MLBPA is rejecting. If the indecision continues, the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The latest plans are that MLS teams will go to Orlando and play all the tournament games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The teams would be divided into groups like at the World Cup and play three group stage matches, which will be added to the original two matches all teams played towards their regular season totals.

Then 16 teams would advance out of the ‘group stage’ into a 16-team knockout style tournament. The teams that didn’t advance would go home with the others moving through the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally the championship. Only the group stage matches will be added to the season totals.

Friday Flashback:  Father-Son Sports Teams

Silhouette of Father and Son Playing Baseball Outside

With Father’s Day happening this weekend, let’s take a look at some of the most famous father-son sports duos.  This list isn’t ranked in any way.

Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning

It is rare enough that a father and one son make it big in sports but to have two sons to do well in professional sports is a rarity.  The Mannings have been one of the few to accomplish this feat.  Archie played most of his career when the New Orleans Saints were frequent losers in the National Football League (NFL).  He started 139 games and finished with a record of 35-101-3.  Archie was never fortunate to participate in the postseason.   On the other hand, his two sons exceeded that by both winning Super Bowls.  Peyton won with Indianapolis and Denver while Eli won with the New York Giants.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. was known as “The Intimidator” with his driving. He won 76 races in his career, achieving perhaps his most elusive victory at the 1998 Daytona 500.  Tragically, he perished on the final-lap wreck at Daytona in 2001. Dale Earnhardt Jr., then age 26, finished second in that race. In the traumatic aftermath of his father’s passing, Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400 that year in the first race held on the Daytona track since the tragedy.  A visible and charismatic figure, Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for 11 consecutive seasons. After winning the Daytona 500 in 2004, he thrilled fans by taking the checkered flag there in 2014 at age 39, his 20th career win.  They are the only father and son who ever competed directly against each other.  Dale was still racing at a high level when his son came onto the scene.  Junior was unfortunately in the race where his father was fatally killed in a crash.

Bobby and Brett Hull

Bobby Hull—nicknamed “The Golden Jet”—collected the Hart Trophy twice as the league’s MVP and led in points three times. His statue now stands outside the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks.  Brett Hull had a very high standard to aim for, and he drastically outperformed his two brothers to earn the honorific of “The Golden Brett.” He joined dad in the Hall of Fame in 2009, the first father-son duo ever enshrined. While Brett won “only” one MVP award, he doubled up his father in Stanley Cups and scored more often; they tallied 1,351 career goals between them.  Brett currently serves in the front office for the St. Louis Blues.

Bobby and Barry Bonds

They are the greatest father-son duo in baseball history. Bobby hit 332 career home runs and stole 461 bases.  He played for eight teams in 14 seasons with three All-Star appearances. Barry’s career is questioned amid the BALCO scandal, but his on-field production is legendary. The infamous steroid allegations has meant four years of Hall of Fame voting and no entrance for Bonds, but he finished his career with the records for home runs in a season (73) and career (763).

Other notable father-son teams:

  • Buddy, Rex and Rob Ryan (football)
  • Prince and Cecil Fielder (baseball)
  • Felipe and Moises Alou (baseball)
  • Cal Ripken, Sr. and Cal Ripken, Jr. (baseball)
  • Kellen Winslow, Sr. and Kellen Winslow, Jr. (football)
  • Clay Matthews, Sr. and Clay Matthews, Jr. (football)
  • Ken Norton, Sr. (boxing) and Ken Norton, Jr. (football)
  • Calvin Hill (football) and Grant Hill (basketball)
  • Brett and Bob Boone (baseball)